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List of GCC countries and nations

Saturday 05 September 2015 (UAE)   
 
   
 

List of GCC countries, Gulf countries

List of six Arab GCC (or AGCC) countries (Gulf countries), citizen nationalities, nations, or member states is Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE. Yemen and Iran are Muslim countries but not GCC members. Population statistics, foreign expat resident percentages, currency, land area, other figures and data.

  1. Bahrain - or Kingdom of Bahrain
  2. Kuwait
  3. Oman - or Sultanate of Oman
  4. Qatar
  5. Saudi Arabia - or Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)
  6. UAE - United Arab Emirates

Countries not part of the GCC

  • Iran (Islamic Republic of Iran) - is a Muslim country. Is not an Arab country (is Persian, only about 2% of the population is Arab). Has a coast on the Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf).
  • Iraq - is an Arab Muslim country. Has an Arabian Gulf coast (just barely, between Kuwait and Iran).
  • Yemen - is an Arab Muslim country but does not have a coast on the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf).

Total and average figures for GCC countries

  • Total GCC population is about 42-45 million as of July 2014 (using an estimate of about 7-8m for the UAE). About 60% of the total is for Saudi Arabia.
  Bahrain Kuwait Oman Qatar Saudi Arabi (KSA) UAE
Capital Manama Kuwait City Muscat Doha Riyadh Abu Dhabi
Ruler Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Title, date King, since Mar 1999     Emir from Jun 2013 King from 23 Jan 2015 President, since Nov 2004
Population2,3 1,314,089 (2014, CIA) 2,742,711 (2014, CIA) 3,219,775 (2014, CIA) 2,123,160 (2014, CIA) 27,345,986 (2014, CIA) 9.2m (2013, World Bank)4
Population2 1,106,509 (July 2008, CIO) 3,996,899 (2014, PACI)   2,224,583 (2015, QSA)   8,264,070 (2010, NBS)4
Land Area 741 sq km       2.15m sq km 83,600 sq km
Currency Bahraini Riyal Kuwaiti Dinar Omani Riyal Qatari Riyal Saudi Riyal Dirham AED
Citizens Bahrainis Kuwaitis Omanis Qataris Saudis or Saudi Arabians Emiratis
Citizenship Father, not birthplace Father, not birthplace Father, not birthplace Father, not birthplace Father, not birthplace Father, not birthplace1
Percentage expats5 55% (UN, 2013) 70% (PACI, 2014) 30% (UN, 2013) 85% (2014, estimate) 30% (UN, 2013) 80-90%5
Flag            
Airlines Gulf Air6 Kuwait Airways6 Oman Air Qatar Airways Saudia6 Etihad Airways6
  1. See country notes and updates section (sections) below.
  2. Population figures are often unreliable, a second source might be given for comparison.
  3. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2119rank.html - CIA World Factbook population figures reference.
  4. UAE population estimate of 5,628,805 given by the CIA for Jul 2014 is misleading as it is based on a UAE NBS figure from the 2005 census, which was probably too low at the time anyway (a number of residents did not participate in the census). The World Bank 2013 estimate is possibly too high but there is no question the population has increased substantially since 2005. The UAE NBS figure for 2010 might be a reasonable estimate for 2014-2015. As of Jan 2015, the most recent population figures released by the NBS (the official government statistics department) were 8.2m as a 2010 estimate, and 5.6m for the 2005 census.
  5. Variation of up to 5% higher or lower is common depending on which source, also varies over time but not as much. For the UAE, UN 2013 estimate is 80%, UAE NBS 2010 estimate is 89%. But trend is decreasing proportion of citizens, increasing proportion of expat foreigners, so UN estimate is likely to be too low.
  6. Airline notes (commercial operators with scheduled flights only):
    • Etihad Airways is based in Abu Dhabi, and is (or claims to be) the national carrier of the UAE. Other UAE airlines include Air Arabia (Sharjah), Emirates Airline (Dubai), FlyDubai (Dubai), RAK Airways (Ras Al Khaimah, services suspended 31 Dec 2013), Rotana Jet (Abu Dhabi).
    • Gulf Air was originally the national or flag carrier for Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi emirate, which jointly owned the airline. From 2002-2007 Oman, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi withdrew from the partnership leaving Gulf Air the national carrier solely for Bahrain, and owned by Bahrain.
    • Kuwait Airways is the national carrier of Kuwait. Other operators include Jazeera Airways.
    • Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) is the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia. Other operators include FlyNas (previously Nas Air).
  • CIA - American Central Intelligence Agency.
  • NBS - UAE National Bureau of Statistics.
  • PACI - Kuwait Public Authority for Civil Information.
  • QSA - Qatar Statistics Authority. Monthly total population figure update available on their website, but not nationality figures.

Country updates - see also country notes section below [merge]

Qatar
  • New emir from Jun 2013: Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, replacing Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.
Saudi Arabia
  • New king from 23 January 2015: Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Abdul-Aziz Al Saud), after the death of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
United Arab Emirates
  • Citizenship or nationality comes from father's nationality i.e. children of Emirati fathers are Emirati citizens. Mother's nationality is not usually relevant if father is Emirati. Parents of any child born in the UAE (expats included) must be married to each other, otherwise they are likely to be prosecuted for having sex out of wedlock and jailed (pregnancy or baby is used as evidence in a court case).
    • [Check] Children of mixed marriages where mother is Emirati and father is not, do not normally have Emirati citizenship. A new presidential decree in 2011 allowed children in that situation to apply for Emirati citizenship upon reaching the age of 18 years.
    • Place of birth is generally not relevant, however, children of Emirati fathers and non-Emirati mothers who are born outside the UAE might not automatically be given Emirati nationality unless or until the Emirati father files an application. Obviously this is difficult if the father does not acknowledge the child belongs to him, and especially if he is not married to the mother. The reverse question does not really apply, as in a mother denying a child is hers, since the mother is normally present at the birth of her child.
    • Children of expats resident in the UAE, or visitors to the UAE, do not get UAE nationality. Usually their nationality is the same as that of their father.
    • [Check] Nationality of children of an unmarried Emirati mother when father's nationality is not Emirati is probably the same as that of the father. This would be a rare situation due to cultural, legal, and religious considerations.
    • [Check] Nationality of children of an unmarried Emirati mother when father's nationality is unknown or not disclosed? This would be a rare situation due to cultural, legal, and religious considerations.
    • [Check] Citizenship can be acquired, or given by the UAE government. Procedure involves conversion to Islam (if not already a Muslim), UAE residence for a period of time (20+ years?) or some sort of contribution to the UAE significant enough for a ruling Sheikh to offer citizenship. Other nationalities and passports must be renounced?

Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC, GCC)

  • GCC is the acronym for Gulf Cooperation Council (or Gulf Co-operation Council). Full name is Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG). Also referred to as the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC).
  • Secretary General of the GCC is Dr Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani (Dr Abdulattif Al Zayyani) (last checked 26 Jul 2013).
  • The GCC was founded on 26 May 1981.
  • GCC citizens can usually travel freely between member states without the need for visas, or sometimes passports - a national identity card might be sufficient, at least at land border crossings.
  • Arabic for Gulf is Khaleej. The term "Khaleeji" is sometimes used to describe Gulf Arabs. [Check] Or just UAE Arabs?

GCC Geography and Members

  • All GCC countries have part or all of their coastline on the Arabian Gulf. Most of the Omani coast is on the Indian Ocean (Arabian Sea) but part of the Musandam Peninsula, which has coastline on the Arabian Gulf, belongs to Oman.
  • Yemen (or The Republic of Yemen) is not included although geographically it lies in the same region. It shares a land land border with Oman and Saudi Arabia but does not have any part of its coastline on the Arabian Gulf.
  • Iran and Iraq are not part of the GCC. Both countries have a coastline on the Arabian or Persian Gulf, both are Islamic or Muslim countries, Iraq is Arab, Iran is not (is Persian), Iraq has a land border with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Iran does not have a land border with any GCC country.
  • Other Arab countries in the Middle East are not part of the GCC: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria. Israel has Arab Muslim citizens but is not regarded as an Arab or Muslim country. Turkey is a Muslim country but not Arab or Middle Eastern (is Turkish, and is situated in Asia and Europe).
  • The "Gulf" refers to the body of water known as the Arabian Gulf in GCC countries, or the Persian Gulf as referred to in many other places.
  • Using the term "Persian Gulf" is impolite at least for GCC countries and nationals, whereas, Iran and many Iranians find the term "Arabian Gulf" offensive. Most other people or countries probably don't care that much one way or another.

Arabian Gulf vs Persian Gulf

  • All five GCC or Gulf countries have part or all of their coast line on the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf).
  • All GCC member states refer to the body of water as the Arabaian Gulf and dislike references to the Persian Gulf.
  • Iran refers to it as the Persian Gulf and strongly dislikes references to the Arabian Gulf.
  • Most of the rest of the world calls it the Persian Gulf but doesn't get as upset about it being called the Arabian Gulf as the Iranians do (they do have a very stong opinion about it).
  • Officially it is the Persian Gulf. Officially meaning what the UN calls it, what most world atlases call it. But it is not the official name according to GCC countries.
  • Since we are more interested in trying not to annoy GCC countries we'll call it the Arabian Gulf.

GCC union

The GCC countries are in discussion (during 2011 ... 2012 ...) about forming a political, economic, and military union similar to the European Union (EU). A customs union and common currency have been agreed upon, at least in principle. Implementation timeline unknown or undecided.

  • 05 Mar 2014 - Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar as a result of Qatar not halting support for groups which are considered to be a threat to security and stability in GCC countries, the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. Qatar was not planning to withdraw its ambassadors from the other countries at the time of the announcement. A GCC union might need more discussion and study.
  • 02 Sep 2012 - GCC foreign ministers met in Jeddah after studying a plan for GCC unity and said it would need more discussion.
  • 08 May 2012 - at a GCC summit, a proposed plan for greater unity was discussed but GCC members said it would need further study.
  • Dec 2011 - King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was reported to have said during a speech that the six GCC countries should move towards a "stage of unity in a single entity," apparently as a response to the Arab Spring uprisings in the region, and the perceived threat from Iran towards GCC countries.
GCC currency union

A common currency and monetary union between the 6 GCC countries, similar to the EU monetary union and currency, was originally planned with a launch date in or before 2010. That has been delayed to 2015 at least, or indefinitely is more likely.

  • 01 Dec 2013 (Akhbar Al Khaleej - Bahrain) - an anonymous source was quoted as saying that Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia would announce a common currency by end December 2013. The UAE and Oman were not included, both countries had withdrawn from common currency discussions previously. The report also contradicts previous information that the 2010 deadline had been cancelled and replaced by a (vague rather than definite) 2015 target date.
  • May 2010 - a Reuters report said that 2015 might be a revised target, but even that might be optimistic according to Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who said to Reuters "...I don't foresee the currency to be launched in 2015 ..."
  • 2009 - the 2010 deadline or target date was cancelled.
  • 2009 - the UAE withdrew from the plan after the GCC Central Bank location was proposed for Saudi Arabia instead of Abu Dhabi in the UAE.
  • 2006 - Oman pulled out of the common currency discussions and plan.
  • 1998 (?) - a common GCC currency first discussed.

GCC countries shared economics, politics, culture, religion

  • GCC countries have a significant economic dependence on oil export. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi in the UAE in particular. Qatar has a large natural gas industry, Oman and Bahrain have much less dependence on oil.
  • All GCC countries are Islamic states with all citizens (or almost all) belonging to the Muslim faith. Citizens who are not Muslim probably keep that fact to themselves as it is possible they run the risk of punishment from the state (the penalty for apostasy is death in some GCC countries). Expat residents of other faiths are accepted to varying degrees depending on the country - the UAE allows churches and other religious buildings to operate, Saudi Arabia does not for example.
  • Most citizens of Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE are Sunni Muslims but there are significant proportions of Shia (Shiite) Muslims in all countries. Bahrain has a majority of Shi'a Muslims? Oman has a majority who are Ibadi/Ibadhi Muslims.
  • All GCC countries have political and legal systems based on the Islamic religion. Sharia (Sharia'a, Shariah) law is in place for the most part, and applicable to citizens but sometimes not to expatriate residents.
  • Citizens of GCC countries usually share the same or similar dress code - a black abaya for women, a white dishdasha for men. The style might vary amongst individuals and/or countries, and the dishdasha might be different colors, especially in Oman.
  • All GCC countries operate as a monarchy of some sort with an autocratic system of leadership. Governments and parliamentary bodies are usually unelected although some GCC nations are introducing a greater degree of democratic government - for example the Council of Representatives (or Chamber of Deputies) in Bahrain, the National Assembly in Kuwait, and the Federal National Council (FNC) in the UAE.

GCC tourist visa

  • 26-27 Aug 2013 - news reports said that the GCC was considering a unified tourist visa valid for all GCC member nations. An unknown source was quoted by the Al Rai, a Kuwaiti newspaper, as saying "The plan to have a GCC tourism visa, similar to the Schengen visa in Europe, is about to be implemented after obstacles have been cleared." The source (or another one) also said "... the GCC visa could be issued in mid-2014" which some reports interpreted as more likely than indicated by the quote with headlines similar to "Unified visa for GCC countries by 2014" or "GCC visa expected in mid-2014"
  • 26 Aug 2013 - Emirates 24-7 clarified or confused the time-frame for the unified visa, saying The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is headed towards a unified tourist visa as early as 2014 ... According to Al-Shobaily, no timeframe has been set for the implementation of this single visa for the region. Referring to Abdullah Al-Shobaily, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Matters at the GCC, who apparently said to Al Hayat, a Saudi newspaper, "The GCC is currently striving to set up a computer system to exchange data in order to facilitate the issuance of a unified tourist visa for the entire region."
  • Given the restrictive entry requirements for visiting Saudi Arabia, the largest, and arguably the most influential GCC country, it sounds optimistic to us that a unified GCC tourist visa will become reality for most nationalities as soon as 2014. Perhaps 2024 is a more likely target date for such a scheme. Or a unified visa agreement between some of the GCC countries - for example the UAE, Oman, and possibly Bahrain and Qatar.
  • GCC nationals can already travel between GCC countries without needing a passport or visa.

GCC nationals in the UAE - data and statistics for 2009

From report issued by the GCC and Arab Countries Affairs Department at the UAE Ministry of Finance (MOF) (press release 28 August 2010):

  • Number of GCC nationals living in rose from 5,608 in 2008 to 7,650 in 2009.
  • Government loans granted to GCC nationals to establish industrial projects rose from AED 5.5 million in 2008 to AED 20 million in 2009.
  • Number of GCC nationals owning property in the UAE - 22,706 in 2009.
  • Number of licenses for professional and commercial activities granted to GCC nationals - 1,884 in 2009.
  • Number of commercial GCC banks operating in the UAE - 4 in 2007, 7 in 2008 and 2009
  • Number of GCC nationals working in the UAE private sector up from 2,117 in 2008 to 3,080 in 2009
  • Number of GCC nationals employed in UAE federal government entities - 605
  • Number of GCC nationals employed in local governmental bodies - 1,932
  • Number of GCC nationals employed in UAE semi-government sector - 207
  • Number of GCC nationals benefiting from insurance protection increased from 2,992 in 2008 to 3,589 in 2009
  • Number of GCC students studying in UAE schools rose from 15,476 in 2008 to 16,463 in 2009, of which 12,892 were in public schools and 3,571 in private schools.

Living and working in the GCC

A guide to living in and working in any GCC country will vary depending on the target audience. Life is very different depending on where you come from, your nationality, what sort of work you do, which GCC country you live in, and even where you live within that country.

  • GCC nationals will find it relatively easy to live and work in any GCC country. There are few or no bureacratic restrictions on residency and crossing borders. Some religious differences between branches of Islam might be a concern but normally on a personal level only. Violence similar to what occurs in Iraq between different groups is unheard of in GCC countries. The unrest in Bahrain during 2013 was related to dissatisfaction with government authorities, not religious differences.
  • Muslim Arab nationals and Iranian Muslims will also find it relatively easy to live in and work in GCC countries generally, at least from a cultural and religious perspective. Bureaucratic procedures regarding visas and work permits can be problematic at times, for example Syrians find it more difficult to enter GCC countries after 2013 as a result of the unrest in Syria. More liberal Arab Muslims might find some of the lifestyle restrictions undesirable, in which case see the section about Western expats for comments on tolerance levels in each country.
  • Muslims of other nationalities will find there is not so much adjustment to make with respect to living and working in the Gulf countries from a religious perspective, but cultural differences are more noticeable, for example for Central Asian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani Muslims.
  • Arab Christians will find the UAE and Oman the most tolerant, and easiest places to live in. Possibly also Bahrain. Other GCC countries might be less comfortable, especially for Arabs who have converted from Islam to Christianity or another religion.
  • Apostasy is illegal and punishable by death in some GCC countries, although it is rare that it is carried out. Conflicting information found about which countries have the death sentence, with the exceptions of Saudi Arabi (has death penalty) and Oman (no death penalty). Some sources seem to indicate that apostasy for other religions is also a crime in GCC countries. Wikipedia for example: "In 2011, 20 countries across the globe prohibited its citizens from apostasy; in these countries, it is a criminal offense to abandon one's faith to become atheist, or convert to another religion." However, it is rare (or possibly illegal) for a citizen of a GCC country not to be a Muslim in the first place, and it is not clear if the laws apply to only citizens, citizens and resident expats, or citizens and only Muslim expats. Anyway, in reality, conversion from other religions to Islam is acceptable, and welcomed in GCC countries, so it would be the result of a very unusual set of circumstances for a convert to Islam to be convicted of apostasy (we can't think of an example of how it could happen).
  • Income is tax-free in all GCC countries with the exception of Bahrain which introduced a "Social Insurance Tax" of 1% on income to fund unemployment benefits. There has been discussion over the years regarding the introduction of income tax but it seems unlikely to happen in the near future.
  • Housing or municipality taxes exist in some countries, for example in Dubai, residential tenants pay 5% of their annual rent as a municipality tax.
  • Corporate tax is mostly non-existent in all GCC countries with some exceptions. Foreign banks in the UAE for example. Companies related to the oil industry.
  • Sales tax in some form exists depending on the country and type of goods and services. For example 30% tax on alcohol purchases in the UAE, service charges at restaurants in the UAE, hotel accommodation taxes in the UAE, and additional "Tourist Dirham" tax in Dubai. An overall sales tax such as GST, VAT, MwSt, etc has not been implemented.
  • Company ownership is restricted to 49% (maximum, sometimes less) for foreign non-GCC nationals within GCC countries. This applies privately held companies, and companies publicly listed on stock markets. Exceptions are in free zones where 100% ownership is permitted.
  • Driving standards range from awful to very good, depending on your perspective. Road infrastructure is generally good to excellent. Petrol is cheap to very cheap depending on the level of government subsidy (UAE most expensive in the GCC, Saudi Arabia the cheapest), all GCC countries have some degree of fuel subsidy.

Below is a very brief guide to GCC countries for Western expats and other nationalities who want to wear what they like, eat pork, drink alcohol, and/or have sex with someone they are not married to. Those three issues are singled out (or tripled out?) because they seem to be the most frequently asked about by westerners thinking of moving to a GCC country. In all GCC countries it is illegal for unmarried people to have sex, and for married people to commit adultery. Punishments according to the law are severe (jail and deportation at least), tolerance and risk of getting caught varies significantly; women, especially Muslim and/or Asian women, are often treated more harshly if caught.

  • Bahrain: Reasonably tolerant, alcohol and pork are restricted but legal.
  • Kuwait: Avoid, is quite conservative, although not as much as Saudi Arabia.
  • Oman: Reasonably tolerant, alcohol and pork are restricted but legal. Bars and nightclubs exist legally.
  • Qatar: Consider but with reservations, is relatively conservative although not as much as Saudi Arabia.
  • Saudi Arabia: Avoid unless living on a company compound where those activities occur (they are still illegal). Pork and alcohol are illegal. Dress code very conservative. Significant restrictions for women - driving a car is illegal for example (also motorcycles and bicycles, but not aircraft). Some variation between cities and regions - Riyadh is more conservative than Jeddah for example.
  • UAE: Mostly tolerant, significant variations between emirates. Dubai is the least restrictive, Sharjah the most. Except for Sharjah, all emirates permit pork sales and alcohol consumption, with some restrictions. Living in Dubai, you could easily think you are living in a western city at times. Avoid living or working in Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Sharjah unless you have a good reason to. Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah are appealing in some ways but think twice before going there - they are not the same as Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Country notes

Qatar

  • Driving licence ban for expat laborers introduced 2013. Might be extended to other expats (under consideration in 2014).

Saudi Arabia

  • Women are banned from driving cars, although technically it seems that they are banned from obtaining a driving licence. However, women with foreign driving licences will still be in trouble if they try to drive. Why are women banned? According to Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al Shaikh, as reported by Saudi news site An7a in May 2013 ... "Women driving would lead to more accidents. When women are in danger, they don’t know how to act. How are they going to deal with accidents?"
  • From early 2013 women were no longer banned from riding motorcyles or bicycles, but only in recreational areas under the supervision of a male guardian or relative.
  • Woman are not banned from driving aircraft: Prince Al Waleed bin Talal of Kingdom Holding Company (KHC) has a female pilot for his private jet (Hanadi Zakaria al Hindi - recruited in 2004, qualified in 2005). Comments and reports seen that Saudi Arabian Airlines has female airline pilots "... Saudi Arabian Airlines recruited its first female pilot in 2005 ..." but confirmation not found. Might be references to Iran Air which does have female airline pilots, but in Iran they can drive to work, or to Hanadi al Hindi who started flying for KHC in 2005. Another Saudi female pilot often mentioned, Yasmin Al Maimani, has a pilot's licence but does not fly for SAA (yet ... she wants to according to news reports).

Israel and the GCC

  • Israel is not officially recognized as a country by any GCC member, and is considered to be occupying Palestinian territories illegally by all GCC countries.
  • Generally there is no official recognition of Israeli government bodies, or communication between GCC government bodies and Israeli public or private groups. There is no official direct trade between GCC based companies and Israeli companies.
  • There are no official diplomatic relations between Israel and any GCC country (no Israeli embassy or consulate, and none of the GCC countries have an embassy or consulate in Israel).
    • The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs started a virtual Israeli Embassy to the GCC, with a Twitter account (@IsraelintheGCC) in an apparent attempt to start some sort of dialogue with GCC states (25 Jul 2013 reports). [Twitter? Seriously? Perhaps becoming Facebook friends is next ...]
    • [Check] Bahrain did have an Israeli diplomatic representative mission based in Manama from 1996 to 2000 but it has closed.
    • [Check] Qatar and Israel had trade offices from 1996 to 2009.
  • There are no direct commercial flights between airports in GCC cities and airports in Israel.
  • Israeli passport holders are not usually permitted to obtain visas for GCC countries, or to travel to GCC countries, with the exception of Bahrain and Qatar, [check] possibly Oman also now? Israeli citizens travelling on another passport might or might not be denied entry to a GCC country (official policy seems to be variable or vague). Exceptions are sometimes made, for example Israeli athletes and government officials have visited the UAE (IMF and World Bank Summit in 2003, IRENA conference in Abu Dhabi 2010 and 2014, Dubai Tennis Open).
  • [Check] Israeli citizens or passport holders can transit through the UAE, cannot transit through Saudi Arabia, might be permitted to transit other GCC country airports.
  • Non-Israeli travellers with evidence of travel to Israel can usually enter a GCC country for a visit or tourism without restrictions except for Saudi Arabia and possibly Kuwait. Entry for residence or employment might be more restrictive.

Travel and visa information for Israel and the GCC by country

  • Oman and the UAE do not usually deny entry to anyone just because they have an Israeli immigration stamp in their passport. Entry to the UAE for employment might be refused - check with a UAE embassy or consulate, or UAE immigration, because this depends on checks by immigration authorities, not an overall blanket yes or no permission.
    • UAE MOFA says on their UAE embassy websites (www.uae-embassy.ae, checked Jan 2015): "The existance [sic] of Israel stamp on the passport is not a reason to reject your entry to UAE."
  • Bahrain and Qatar permit Israeli citizens to apply for entry visas, so the passport stamp question is assumed to be a non-issue for other nationalities.
  • [Check] Oman might now permit Israeli citizens to apply for an entry visa - conflicting information seen, nothing from an official source, and no official confirmation found regarding any policy change.
    • IATA Timatic web says (Jan 2015) "Admission is refused to nationals of Israel."
  • Saudi Arabia does not officially (?) allow anyone with evidence of a visit to Israel to enter or transit, but unofficially there are anecdotal reports that sometimes they do. This appears to depend on visitor nationality, and mood or diligence of immigration official at passport control.
    • UK Government says on their travel advice website (www.gov.uk, updated 27 Jan 2015): "You may be refused entry to Saudi Arabia if your passport contains evidence of previous travel to Israel or indicates Israel as your birthplace."
    • IATA Timatic web (Jan 2015) says those travelling to Saudi Arabia (except for Saudi citizens) "... who have visited Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within the last 21 days will be refused entry." Israel not included.
    • Public information about Israeli visa stamps or citizens not found on Saudi government websites. Checked (Jan 2015) Ministry of Interior (MOI), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Saudi Government online portal.
    • No mention of Israeli nationality or visa stamp restrictions in list of requirements on Saudi Visa application forms.
    • However, Israel is not available in nationality list for online Saudi visa applications.
  • [Check] Kuwait unclear.
    • UK Government says on their travel advice website (www.gov.uk, updated 31 Oct 2014, checked Jan 2015): "If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport you may be refused a visa and/or entry into Kuwait."
  • [Check] As of 2013, Israel does not automatically stamp passports on entry for tourist visits anymore anyway, a separate paper entry visa or permit is issued. Not clear if only at airports or land borders also. No official confirmation found of a change in policy but numerous recent references seen regarding this change, with some making the proviso that it is still recommended to clearly request the border authorities NOT to stamp your passport. Unless you want a stamp, then you can ask for one if they don't stamp it.
  • The reverse does not usually apply, i.e. Israel does not restrict entry to travellers just because they have a passport stamp from a GCC country, however they will probably be questioned on entry to Israel about their visit to that country.
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