Finding the perfect gift for friends, family, and business associates can feel daunting. We all want to do our very best to impress, and that’s hard even for people you know nearly as well as you know yourself. For someone miles away, it can feel impossible. When you’re navigating gift-giving culture in UAE, or the United Arab Emirates, if you’ve never visited (and even if you have), you likely have a ton of questions. To make things easy when you’re sending gifts to UAE, we’ve created a quick and easy cheat sheet for you to follow.
What holidays do they celebrate in the UAE?
The first thing to keep in mind is that the UAE is actually a collective of seven emirates, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Duabi, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaiman, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. This collection of people have religions, holidays, and customs as diverse and varied as anywhere in the world. When in doubt, I strongly suggest asking your recipient what holidays are important to them. Most international and major religious holidays are celebrated here, but knowing which ones your recipients follow is part of picking out the right gift. From Ramadan to Eid, Diwali, and even Christmas, each holiday takes on its own flair in UAE.
However, this one is a big holiday for everyone: UAE National Day. Celebrated on December 2nd every year, it is a day to commemorate the union of the 7 emirates in the UAE. On December 2nd 1971 six of the seven agreed to join, with Ras al-Khaiman agreeing to join on February 10th 1972. To celebrate the unity and peace between these regions, it’s appropriate to send a delicious gourmet or fruit basket for an office or family to share.
What are the dos and don’ts of gift giving in the UAE?
The best gift to send to anyone in the UAE, hands down, is fruit. People love these sweet refreshing treats no matter what the occasion. More specifically, date boxes are particularly beloved. These delicious regional treats have a lot of religious and cultural significance. Spiced or stuffed dates are particularly decadent gifts to send to business associates. While candied dates and other sweets or chocolates offer a bit of fun to any birthday gift or surprise you want to send to friends, family, and colleagues.
Although any sweets and gourmet goods are fair game for gifts in the UAE, you’ll absolutely want to stay away from gifting alcohol. Couriers cannot deliver alcohol in any of the Emirates. For many of the religious in the area, alcohol is either off-limits or used at limited times. Giving someone a bottle of spirits can easily be awkward and offensive, so it’s best to stick with edible gift baskets to UAE instead.
You will also want to keep in mind different business hours for offices in the UAE. Generally, the working week in the UAE is Sunday through Thursday. Offices also tend to try and be open during the cooler hours, particularly shops. So, it is not uncommon for business to closed during peak heat, typically 1 pm until 4 pm, local time. Because of this, it is very important that you have a working local phone number to provide to ensure a successful gift delivery.
Best Gift Ideas to UAE:
– The Emiratis love food, they are very generous with it and indulge in sharing it with those they love and respect. Fruit platters and gourmet gift baskets that include a variety of options is a wonderful choice for your Arab friends or partners for any occasion including Eid, Ramadan and other UAE public holidays.
– Arabs are one of the largest tea loving nations in the world. The second most popular drink in the country after water, tea is available with every meal throughout the day. Send your recipient a Tea gift for any UAE public holiday and have no doubt that they’ll enjoy it. The only thing to remember: the Emiratis love their tea sweet. So sending along some gourmet chocolate, sweet treats or dried fruits as a complement is optional but highly recommended.
– While in the west it is a good suit that serves as an indicator of the status of a man, in Arabia people are judged by the perfume they wear. A bottle of fine perfume will make a valued gift for a male recipient. But be aware of the cultural differences within the country. While a Dubaian will highly appreciate traditional perfume, an Egyptian won’t. Also, be careful with sending perfume to women. Such gifts are only acceptable from other females or close relatives. It’s very important to send the gifts of the best quality and a good perfume can get quite pricey. Some of the best scents will cost you over $1000 per ounce! Now the French and their perfume obsession doesn’t seem that crazy, after all.
– Chocolates, home accessories, and flowers to UAE are some of the most common gifts.
– Whether edible or not, gifts representing other cultures are usually well-received in Islamic countries and the UAE is no exception. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a taste of other cultures?
UAE Gift Giving Taboos:
– Gold jewelry and silk are viewed as a traditional gift for women in the UAE and are an absolute no-no for men. Actually, there’s even a law that prohibits men wearing such items. Silver, on the other hand, is the safest choice and is acceptable for both men and women.
– Even though food is a very popular gift in the Middle East there are two main things to remember. First, pork or any pork by-products such as gelatin are forbidden in the UAE and cannot be included in your gift. And second, if your gift basket contains any meat it has it needs to be ‘halal’. When in doubt, stay away from meat baskets.
– Alcohol is illegal in many places in the Middle East and is something you shouldn’t even consider sending to UAE. Think twice even if you want to surprise your American friend currently visiting an Islamic country, it’s easy to get into trouble with this.
– Gift giving across sexes is viewed as too intimate and is discouraged in the Islamic tradition. But there’s a way to avoid awkwardness. Let’s say you are a male and want to send a gift for your boss who is a female. In this case you’re better of saying it’s from your wife or mother. The same rule applies with sending a gift from a female to a male recipient, even though this scenario is less common. But if that’s the case, you should either say it’s from your husband, or that it’s meant for his wife.
More Tips on Gift Giving in UAE:
– Make sure your gift is of the best quality possible. This is something really important to the Emiratis and expected in both personal and business gift giving.
– The UAE is the mixture of nationalities, so it’s important to keep in mind your recipient’s background. What is acceptable for Dubaian might be a taboo for an Egyptian and visa versa. If you are not sure about your recipient’s traditions go with safe choices like those mentioned above and avoid any misunderstanding.
– If the relationship is already established, it’s important to include small gifts for the kids. Adding toys or chocolates for personal and public holidays in UAE will demonstrate your consideration for family. This will strengthen the bond even more.
– Weddings and new additions to the family are two very important occasions for gift giving in the UAE. Lavish gifts such as gold and diamond jewelry are very popular to give to the bride or newborn girl.
– The wrapping and presentation is not crucial in the Middle East. It is the gift itself that counts the most.
– Don’t restrict yourself with personal occasions alone. UAE public holidays are numerous and present a wonderful opportunity for gift giving.
Anything else you should know about gifts?
The last thing to know about sending gifts to UAE is its people appreciate the effort behind a gift as much as the item itself. A basket you choose, a fruit arrangement made just for them, mean more than a gift card. Be sure to include a sincere message to offer your respect and affection.
Now You’re Ready To Send A Gift To UAE:
A foodie, nerd, book lover, and eager taste tester. I’m a night owl with a need to expand my knowledge of other cultures and places to give myself better perspective.