Want to live and work in a place with traditional souks alongside seven-star hotels and ski slopes in the middle of the desert? Dubai could be your perfect destination.


Dubai has a deserved reputation for the outrageous scale and scope of its construction schemes. Every year hundreds of industry professionals take the six-and-a-half hour flight to the Arab Emirates to work on ambitious, fast-moving projects, and get plenty of sunshine and luxury - not to mention a tax-free salary - for their trouble. So should you join them?

Steve Thomas, Director of Maxim Recruitment (see below) says that from a career point of view, working in Dubai offers unrivalled opportunities for the ambitious construction professional's career.

"Assuming you join a reputable organisation, the quality of life and scope for professional advancement is virtually unlimited. You can work on pretty much the biggest, tallest, longest, widest, most expensive projects in the world, usually using English as the first language, and Cost+ or FIDIC forms of contract. As a point of caution, contractors work a six-day week, consultants five or five and a half days. It is definitely a work hard, play hard environment where you have to be good at your job and show it in order to climb up the greasy pole. Having said that, most big contractors have more work than they can do at the moment, and are expanding their operations exponentially in Dubai, the UAE, the Middle East and into the Indian sub-continent. It is the right time for the Middle East to offer everything an ambitious QS, PM or site manager/construction manager could ask of a job and a location."

In Building's International Zone guide to working in Dubai's construction industry you'll find all you need to know about the rules and regulations governing how you go about getting a job in Dubai, what you can expect when you get there, and even the low down on local etiquette. But first, a little background information on the place that more and more construction workers are calling home.

History and geography

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) came into being in 1971 and comprises Abu Dhabi, Dubai (the capital), Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

Though just a small coastal settlement as late as the early 20th century, Dubai City is today an icon of Arabian prestige and development boasting some of the most groundbreaking and striking land redevelopment and commercial and residential architecture anywhere in the world.

Dubai City is situated on the Dubai Creek, a natural inlet from the Gulf. The central business section is divided by the creek into two distinct areas: Deira on the northern bank and Bur Dubai on the southern shore. Each enjoys a similar selection of commercial and residential development and amenities. Deira and Bur Dubai are connected by a tunnel and two bridges.

Existing side by side with the man-made islands and the world's only seven-star hotel are all the familiar trappings of the Arab world - the colourful and exciting souks, and the traditional street life. The UAE is considered the most cosmopolitan and relaxed of the Gulf States and due to the rapid and dramatic expansion of Dubai City - paid for largely by the exploitation of the gold trade and oil reserves in the 1960s - is set to become a major destination for business and tourism well into the 21st century.

The population of Dubai is around 2.95 million, of which almost 70% are ex-pats from Asia. Arabic is the principle language but also significant levels of English, Farsi and Hindi are spoken.


Dubai City is today an icon of Arabian prestige and development boasting some of the most groundbreaking and striking land redevelopment and commercial and residential architecture anywhere in the world.

Dubai City endures a thorough summer scorching between the months of April and September with temperatures averaging between 38-48°C (100-118°F) during the day and a sticky 26-30°C (79-86F°) at night. The driest months are June to October, when there is almost no rainfall at all.

The winter months (October to March) are by comparison sunny and pleasant for Westerners with a daytime average of 26°C (79°F) and pleasantly cool nights of around 15°C (59°F). The wettest month is February with an average rainfall of just 35mm.


The currency in Dubai and throughout the United Arab Emirates is the Arab Emirate Dirham (AED). The Dirham is equal to 100 Fils, which are available in denominations of five, 10, 25 and 50, though the five and 10 Fils are rarely used. The Dirham itself is available in denominations of five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. 100 Dirham is worth approximately £15.

All major credit cards are accepted in the majority of shops and restaurants.


Malaria is not considered to be a risk in Dubai but immunisation against hepatitis A is recommended. Hepatitis B is endemic throughout the UAE.

While tap water in Dubai and the major cities of the UAE is safe to drink, elsewhere you should rely on bottled or boiled water. Be wary of ice cubes in drinks outside the major cities.

Milk is generally unpasteurised and should be boiled. Dairy products likely to have been made from unpasteurised milk should be avoided. Only well-cooked meat, fish and vegetables should be eaten. Likewise fruit should have been cleaned in fresh water and peeled.

Avoid contact with animals that may carry rabies. While rabies is confined to the border areas with Oman it's really not worth taking any unnecessary risks.