Living and working abroad is not for everyone, but if you have a great work ethic, complimented by exceptional skills, great attitude and ability to cope with the rules of an entirely different country, you won’t have any problem having a great time working and living in that country.
There are many opportunities to work on big projects in the Arab region, and not just in oil, gas and construction. Most jobs are in high demand in these countries and are often very well paid. Earnings can be tax free (which is why most people prefer to work there in the first place), though this may depend on your home country’s policy on overseas income and whether you are paid locally or the payment goes straight to your bank in your home country.
What this experience will fetch you is sometimes unimaginable because you’re likely going to be working with people from all over the world (the fact is these Arab countries are filled with people from different part of the world, mostly people from the Asian continent) and to fully cope, you’re going to have to do that with an open mind. Diversity is an important value because it is very important to understand that you’re going to be dealing with people with different upbringings, ethnicity, sexual orientation, especially in the country where you find yourself, you have to respect their rules, culture and most importantly, religion.
Having said that, here are the top five Arab countries you (as a foreigner) can work in as long as you are focused, skilled and can cope with dealing with a totally different culture.
Bahrain’s economy heavily relies on oil and gas but the country is also a well-established center of finance, particularly Islamic finance. Bahrain is one of the smallest countries in the Arab region with a population of 1.64 million and up until recently, the country was seen as a relaxed and cosmopolitan center where religious and academic freedoms were permitted, as is the right to drink alcohol. Bahrain is also said to have a good sense of community, with foreigners warmly welcomed and treated. The working week in Bahrain is reportedly between 40 and 48 hours, depending on your company’s policy. Like most other Muslim countries, Friday is the Muslim rest day.
One quarter of Oman’s population consists of expatriates from different parts of the world. Oman is a very safe and secured place for expats with a very low crime rate. Cost of living in Oman is much lesser than most countries in the Arab region and it can encourage reserving savings. The working week in Oman is typically between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the industry. In general (as also practiced in all other Arab countries), the working day starts at around 8:30am or 9am, and finishes at 5:30pm or 6pm. Friday is the Muslim rest so if your company has a five-day work week, your other day off will be Saturday which means your work week begins on Sunday. In the month of Ramadan, the working hours are reduced to six hours for Muslim employees.
Surprisingly, Qatar is the richest country in the world per capita and the country is currently going through a phase of tremendous infrastructural development. Qatar shares a border with UAE and it enjoys a relatively liberal way of life. Due to recent increase in oil and gas prices, Qatar is one of the world’s fastest growing economies with the country hosting world’s major project financing.
The country is also set to host the 2022 World Cup which will be a huge boost to the country’s recognition worldwide.
2. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest Arab countries and it’s also the country with the most population in the Middle East. This is the key growth market for the country which is why today; over 6 million expatriates work in the country. These individuals are attracted by excellent living facilities and modern schools.
Majority of job opportunities are in the country’s oil and gas industry. However, efforts are being made to develop other industries in order to diversify the economy and reduce the heavy reliance on oil. Finding a job in Saudi Arabia is mostly done before entering the country because work is the only reason why visas are issued to live in the country. Saudi Arabia is a closed country so you can only get to enter the country via formal visa approval. Working in Saudi Arabia is also tax free.
1. United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven Emirates including Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital) and Dubai (its most populous city). Abu Dhabi is UAE’s largest city and it is the home to majority of the energy project works that take place in the region. It is also the cultural and sporting capital, with the Louvre museum on Saadiyat Island and the famous F1 track on Yas Island. And there’s Dubai too which has developed a business culture that is more entrepreneurial in nature. Dubai is the most westernized of all the Middle East hubs which is why it has a well deserved reputation of being a commercial and tourist hub (which is totally unarguable).
Working hours in the UAE are mostly 9 hours per day (8:30am – 5:30pm/9am – 6pm) that’s 45 hours a week.