Money Mover Country Report - United Arab Emirates

Posted on the 23rd March 2017 by Dorianne Sager in Country Reports

United Arab Emirates - Dubai


In the 18th century piracy was considered a major threat to maritime trade routes and British interests, particularly along the Pirate coast, an area in the Persian Gulf nestled between Qatar and Oman. It was here in 1820 that seven shiekdoms, or emirates, signed a treaty to become a British protectorate. They were known as the Trucial States until 1971 when Britain pulled out of the area, granting them independence. By 1972, all seven emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain – had joined together to create a federation, now known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Abu Dhabi, the richest of the emirates, is the capital, while Dubai is considered the flashiest – and the most popular tourist destination. With the establishment of the Dubai International Financial Centre in 2004, it is also known as a major global financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia markets.

The UAE sits on an estimated 97.8 billion barrels of oil. The days of piracy on the high seas are long forgotten; today, the UAE is an open treasure chest of wealth and excess. Glittering skyscrapers dot the landscape, families spend the day at the Ferrari themed amusement park, tourists check into the world’s only seven-star hotel and the streets are paved in gold – well, not literally, but Dubai is home to the Gold Souk, a collection of more than 300 shops all dedicated to the sale of gold. In 2013, $75 billion of gold was traded in Dubai – about 40% of the world’s gold trade.

In a country that is comprised of over 80% foreigners, the UAE is generally tolerant and respectful of other cultures but Islamic traditions inform every aspect of life and will always reign supreme. Content from media, both domestic and foreign, and the internet is heavily filtered. There are strict controls on public behaviour, alcohol consumption and dress codes. Kissing in public, even for married couples, could result in deportation. Dancing in public is forbidden and something as innocuous as bouncing a cheque is illegal. It is a curious contradiction that such a tightly controlled society is a monument to decadence. Which just goes to show, even in a country that boasts the world’s tallest building – where the sky really is the limit – there are still rules that must be followed.

Trade and Industry

The UAE is the second largest economy in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and had a GDP of $570 billion in 2014. The UAE’s Free Trade Zones offer 100% foreign ownership and zero taxes and are highly attractive to foreign investors and international businesses, while its economic and political stability and modern infrastructure attracts both low and high skilled workers.

Wealth mainly flows from the oil reserves – the UAE holds 4 % of the world's oil reserves and 3.5 %of gas reserves - but a number of initiatives that focus on knowledge-based sustainable growth driven by innovation are underway to reduce the country’s dependency on oil. Dubai’s revenue from oil and natural gas is now less than 5% of its revenues; tourism (Dubai’s international airport is the busiest in the world), real estate, construction and trade, and financial services are the emirate’s biggest industries.


The UAE’s main exports are crude petroleum, refined petroleum, golf, diamonds and petroleum gas. It’s primary export markets are: Japan, India, China, Oman and Saudi Arabia.


The top imports for the UAE are broadcasting equipment, gold, jewellery, cars, planes, helicopters and spacecraft. It’s primary import markets are: China, India, the US, Germany and the UK.

Currency Overview

In 1973, the UAE introduced the Emirati Dirham (AED) as the official national currency. Since November 1997, the dirham has been pegged to the US dollar: 1 U.S. dollar = 3.6725 dirhams. In 2001, an alliance between UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, called the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), agreed to implement a common currency – similar to the euro - by January 2010. The UAE opted out of the alliance in 2009 and the dirham remains attached to the US dollar.

Currency Pairs

The Emirati Dirham is one of the world’s exotic currencies. Exotic currencies are the least traded in the foreign market. The most common AED currency pairs are AED to INR, USD to AED, GBP to AED, EUR to AED, AUD to AED and CAD to AED.

Making payments

United Arab Emirates is a low risk country and considered stable, both politically and economically.  There are no known issues with making payments to United Arab Emirates.

Types of payments 

All payments are sent via SWIFT and although we can send all supported currencies to United Arab Emirates, the majority of Money Mover customers send Emirati Dirham.

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