Doing business in the Middle East is strongly based on personal relationships, which is why it’s essential for you to be highly personal and engaging. The people are often less formal in business, which may mean they will address you by your first name.
Remember that religion is a way of life in the Middle East and has a profound impact in a cultural sense. Islam penetrates all levels of society and behaviour, and will impact how people will interact with you. We are concentrating on 5 of the 6 Middle East Counties that form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
United Arab Emirate
The United Arab Emirate (UAE) is situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. The UAE is a federation of seven Emirates each with its own Ruler. These are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain. The capital and second largest city is Abu Dhabi, which is also the country’s centre of political, industrial and cultural activities.
Saudi Arabia’s command economy is petroleum-based; roughly 75% of budget revenues and 90% of export earnings come from the oil industry. The oil industry comprises about 45% of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product, compared with 40% from the private sector. Saudi Arabia officially has about 260 billion barrels (4.1×1010 m3) of oil reserves, comprising about one-fifth of the world’s proven total petroleum reserves.
Kuwait’s economy is heavily dependent on oil revenues. The Kuwait government is keen on reducing the dependence on crude oil revenue. It plans to increase investment in downstream industries of the oil sector and also through promoting the role of the private sector and privatisation.
Bahrain is a small island with a population of just over 1 million people. Bahrain’s total area covers 770 sq km; it is the smallest of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and consists of 33 islands.
The main source of Qatar’s wealth is its vast reserves of oil and natural gas (it has the world’s 3rd largest natural gas reserves) which have made it one of the richest countries in the world. Prudent management of these reserves has produced substantial fiscal surpluses (estimated at $16bn, or 3.4% of GDP, for 2010-11) that are being used to fund a diversification and development programme of investment in energy related industries, health, education and infrastructure in particular.