Doing business in Umm al-Quwain

01 February 2013

Umm al-Quwain is located between Ras al-Khaimah and Ajman and has a reputation as a quiet, tranquil emirate, where fishing and date farming remain key contributors to the economy

Ruler Sheikh Saud bin Rashid al-Mualla

Population 56,000

GDP $631m

Per capita GDP $11,268

Key economic sectors Real estate, trading, manufacturing

Main towns Fulaj al-Mualla, Al-Dur Island, Al-Sinniyah Island

The name Umm al-Quwain means ‘mother of the two powers’, a reference to its seafaring and farming heritage.

The ruler of Umm al-Quwain is Sheikh Saud bin Rashid al-Mualla, who succeeded his father in January 2009. The Al-Mualla family have ruled since 1775 and are part of the Al-Ali tribe, which moved on to the mainland from the original settlement on Al-Sinniyah Island because of its declining water resources.

Umm al-Quwain population
Source: IMF

Umm al-Quwain has an Executive Council that assists the ruler in running the emirate. The council was created in 2011, and Crown Prince Sheikh Rashid bin Saud is its chairman.


As the smallest emirate both in terms of population and the size of its economy, Umm al-Quwain has seen much steadier growth than the rest of the UAE. Between 2002 and 2008, gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 10.1 per cent a year, peaking at 18 per cent between 2005 and 2006.

Umm al-Quwain gross domestic product 
Year ($m)
Source: National Bureau of Statistics

In 1976, small quantities of oil and large reserves of gas were discovered off the coast of Umm al-Quwain, but these have not made any significant contribution to the economy of the emirate. Its economy relies on light industry, trading, real estate, fishing and activity at the Ahmed bin Rashid Port and Free Trade Zone.

Umm al-Quwain’s GDP totalled $631m in 2009 and accounted for 0.2 per cent of the UAE economy.

GDP by sector, 2009
Real estate and business services122.419
Wholesale retail trade and repair services70.911
Transport, storage and communication79.113
Government services111.818
Restaurants and hotels23.24
Source: National Statistics Bureau

Free Trade Zones

Ahmed Bin Rashid Port and Free Trade Zone

Umm al-Quwain’s free trade zone began operations in April 1988, following an Emiri decree in 1987 establishing the zone within the confines of the port. Manufacturing, consultancy and trading businesses are allowed to operate in the 335,000-square-metre zone. Leases are for 15-year periods, with a five-year option to renew. Licences are renewable annually. The licence is either an industrial licence (for manufacturing) or a trading permit. Branch offices for offshore companies can also be set up under a trading licence, but proof of the parent firm must be provided each year. The free zone offers 100 per cent foreign ownership and company formation takes three to four days.

Ahmed bin Rashid Port is a mixed-use facility with bunkering, containers, general cargo, dry bulk and liquid bulk storage. Its quay wall is 845 metres long, with 400 metres capable of handling ocean-going vessels. A feeder vessel service links the zone to the UAE’s other ports.

Tel: (+971) 6 765 5882


Accommodation and business premises

Umm al-Quwain’s property market was severely affected by the collapse of Dubai’s real estate sector. Pressure continues to be exerted on prices for residential and commercial space and incentives from landlords are common. Office space is relatively limited, but stock is available in the free zone at a rate of AED25,000 ($6,812 ) a year.

Historically, Umm al-Quwain has been one of the cheaper emirates in which to find accommodation. New projects have been handed over by Emaar Properties at the Umm al-Quwain Marina development. The original masterplan outlined 6,000 villas and 2,000 townhouses in a mixed-use development worth $3.3bn. However, the project was severely behind schedule. Another major real estate project, Tameer’s $8.3bn Al-Salam City, was cancelled following the real estate downturn.


There is no bus or train service to Umm al-Quwain. There is also no airport. The nearest airports are in Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah.


The only hospital in the emirate is the government-owned Umm al-Quwain hospital.

Tel: (+971) 6 765 6888

Government departments and offices

Umm al-Quwain Department of Economic Development

This office issues trade licences for onshore businesses in Umm al-Quwain that are not located in the industrial areas or the free trade zone.

Tel: (+971) 6 765 6888

Umm al-Quwain Naturalisation and Residency Department

Companies setting up onshore must apply for their employment visas through the Naturalisation and Residency Department. Companies based in free zones or industrial zones can apply through their free zone authority.

Tel: (+971) 6 766 6419

Labour Office, Umm al-Quwain

Work permits are issued through the local office of the Ministry of Labour. Proof of trade licence and commercial premises are required for permits to be awarded. The permit then must be taken to the residency department to obtain an employee visa.

Tel: (+971) 6 766 2426


Umm al-Quwain Chamber of Commerce and Industry

All new businesses in the UAE must register with the local chamber of commerce. Membership fees depend on the type of business being registered. Membership ensures businesses are listed in the Umm al-Quwain directory. According to the chamber, more than 8,000 companies have registered to date, with around 6,000 currently operational.

Tel: (+971) 6 765 1111


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