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List of GCC countries and nations, Qatar ties severed by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE

Monday 18 February 2019 (UAE)   

List of GCC countries, Gulf countries

Qexit (?) Qatar crisis ... Qrisis?

News update starting 05 Jun 2017 (Monday) about diplomatic and transport ties cut with Qatar (has anyone called this Qexit yet?). Direct trade ties cut by default as a result of transport links being severed. Financial ties not yet cut but ... many UAE exchange centers stopped exchanging Qatari Riyals (QAR) on 07 Jun 2017. Primary reference sources: BBC, Reuters, WAM, UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) statement, airline websites, UAE news (The National, Gulf News, Khaleej Times).

What does it mean for you (summary as of 05-07 Jun 2017)? Note that citizen or national means a passport holder of the named country; a resident means either a citizen living there, or a non-GCC foreign expat with a residence visa for that country. GCC citizens have the right to live in any GCC member country (similar to EU citizens in Europe), except now for Qataris, they are banned from living in Bahrain, KSA, UAE but not (yet?) from Kuwait or Oman.

  • Qatar websites blocked in the UAE (sometimes just show an error page, not the blocked URL notification): Al Jazeera, Gulf Times, Qatar Tribune, The Peninsula, Qatar Airways (see further below for information about how to contact them), most other Qatar news websites. Qatar MOI website not blocked (so far).
  • Internet users in the UAE warned not to say anything online supporting Qatar or criticising the UAE's policies towards Qatar, or risk penalties of up to at least AED 500,000 fine (not AED 500) and up to 15 years in jail (07 Jun 2017 reports). This includes (pictures, posts or comments) Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Whatsapp, etc. Assume you are not anonymous whatever you do or think, especially if connected to internet in the UAE. UAE based newspapers have published articles sympathetic to Qatar, but don't use those articles as guidance for what might be permitted for you to publish online.
  • Qatari diplomats in Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and diplomats from those countries in Qatar: ordered to leave within 48 hours from 05 Jun 2017. No explicit information on departure schedule regarding diplomats in or from Libya, Maldives, Yemen, although all three countries have stated diplomatic ties have been severed (only a partial amputation applies for Libya, see below).
  • Citizens of Qatar (Qataris, does not apply to expat residents of Qatar):
    • Humanitarian considerations update (11 Jun 2017): Qatari citizens who are married or related (e.g. mixed marriage children but not siblings or parents -in-law) to Bahrain, KSA, UAE citizens might be exempt from travel and residence restrictions in those countries. Qataris married to other GCC or non-GCC citizens not referred to in government statements seen so not clear if similar exemptions apply.
      • UAE contact number for Emirati-Qatari families affected is Ministry of Interior (MOI) Aman helpline +971-8002626 (toll-free in UAE number is 800-2626). Reference www.wam.ae/en/details/1395302618433.
      • Bahrain Ministry of Interior hotline telephone +97317399821.
      • Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior helpline +966112409111.
    • Banned from living in, visiting, or transiting through Bahrain, Saudi Arabia (KSA), UAE effective from 05 or 06 Jun 2017. If already resident in one of those countries, you have 14 days to pack your bags and leave. No information on whether you must sell residential or commercial property in those countries.
    • No information about bans on Qataris for Libya, Maldives, Yemen.
  • Citizens of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia (KSA), UAE (does not apply to expat residents of those countries):
    • Directive issued by your respective governments not to travel to or through Qatar. Penalty for non-compliance unknown. No reports of Qatar banning anyone based on nationality (except for Israelis but that was already in place and is unrelated to the current situation).
    • For those currently living in Qatar, some reports say you have 14 days to pack up and leave, but official statements are less clear, generally saying you may not stay in Qatar but not giving a specific exit timeline.
  • Citizens of Egypt, Libya, Maldives, Yemen: Unknown yet if a ban on living in, travel to or through Qatar in effect, or planned.
  • Expat foreign residents and visitors in Qatar with Qatar residence or visit visas or permits who are not citizens of the previously mentioned countries:
    • 07 Jun 2017 update (what we wrote yesterday below is out of date already): Some reports said Qatar residence visa holders as well as Qatari citizens banned from entering or transiting through UAE (might also apply to Bahrain, Egypt, KSA but no reports confirming that seen yet). Philippines OFWs permitted to travel to Qatar again.
    • 06 Jun 2017: As far as we can tell, no directives issued by your governments (except Philippines but only for OFWs leaving PH for Qatar), and no directives issued by Qatar related to you, however there are general travel restrictions which are likely to affect you.
  • Other foreign nationals who are resident in one of the previously mentioned countries, or anywhere else in the world, who are in Qatar or planning to go to Qatar: As far as we can tell, no directives issued by your or any other governments, despite what some reports say - they appeared to have misinterpreted press releases by various authorities about expats resident in Bahrain, KSA, and UAE (unless we're the ones who can't read properly but see more details below for our explanation). However there are general travel restrictions which are likely to affect you. You cannot travel directly from Bahrain, Egypt, KSA, or UAE to Qatar, however you can travel indirectly; via Muscat or Kuwait are the closest options (unless Oman or Kuwait also sever links with Qatar).
  • Passengers on Qatar Airlines (QR): You cannot fly to or from any airports in Bahrain, Egypt, KSA, UAE. If you have a booking which includes a landing at one of those airports you need to contact QR for refund or re-route. No information yet about restrictions on flights to or from airports in Libya, Maldives, Yemen (but QR doesn't fly to Libya or Yemen anyway).
    • QR offices in countries which have cut ties with Qatar are being closed. So far Bahrain and KSA within 48 hrs from 06 Jun 2017 announcement, UAE on 07 Jun 2017 with immediate effect.
  • Passengers on airlines which fly to Doha: If an airline is based in Bahrain, Egypt, KSA, or UAE, then all flights to and from Doha have been suspended. If an airline is based in Libya, Maldives, or Yemen, no information yet. Any other airline you should be fine unless there is a transit or stopover in Bahrain, Egypt, KSA, or UAE since according to official statements, all transport links with Qatar are supposed to have been severed.
  • Airspace restrictions over Bahrain, Egypt, KSA, and UAE seem to apply only to Qatar Airways (QR) and any other aircraft registered in Qatar. For the general public, the most likely effect is probably longer flight times as aircraft are re-routed to avoid restricted airspace. No information about Qatar imposing restrictions in Qatari airspace for any other airlines, but it seems that there won't be any if reports on 06 Jun 2017 are to be believed which said ... "Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV that Qatar will not retaliate against Gulf neighbours".
  • Other travel restrictions: sea and port restrictions will affect residents in Qatar with possible food shortages. The land border with Saudi Arabia is closed. Qatar has no other land borders.

More detailed version

  • Qatar websites blocked in the UAE (sometimes just show an error page, not the blocked URL notification):
    • Al Arab newspaper (Arabic) (www.alarab.qa) blocked.
    • Al Jazeera (www.aljazeera.com) blocked.
    • Al Raya newspaper (Arabic) (www.raya.com) blocked. Sister publication Gulf Times?
    • Al Sharq newspaper (Arabic) (www.al-sharq.com) blocked or unreacheable. Sister publication The Peninsula?
    • Al Watan newspaper (Arabic) (www.al-watan.com) blocked, epaper (www.watanepaper.com) ok.
    • Doha News (blog not newspaper website?)
      • www.dohanews.co, not dohanews.com which is WN spam (ironically, not blocked though), dohane.ws (forwards to dohanews.co and blocked), www.dohanews.qa (fail or blocked or not Doha News).
      • www.doha-news.com not blocked, not Doha News either (is "Qatar News" spam or aggregator?).
      • FB page at www.facebook.com/dohanews/ still ok.
    • Gulf Times (www.gulf-times.com), blocked or unreacheable, FB page ok (13 Jun 2017).
    • Qatar Airways (www.qatarairways.com) blocked by Du as of 9 or 10 Jun 2017. Might be available on mobile connection. Also blocked by Etisalat (not confirmed)? For customers who want to reschedule or cancel tickets, QR Facebook page callback form has the following contact numbers (as of 10 Jun 2017, but check QR FB page for any updates):
      • Qatar: +974 4022 0072
        KSA: +966 92000 1159
        Bahrain: +973 17212202
        UAE: +971 2621 0007
      • If those numbers are unreacheable, try a QR office in another country.
    • Qatar Day (www.qatarday.com), Home page ok but articles blocked or unavailable, FB page ok (13 Jun 2017).
    • Qatar Living (www.qatarliving.com), not blocked.
    • Qatar Ministry of Interior (www.moi.gov.qa), not blocked.
    • Qatar News Agency (QNA, government news agency) (www.qna.org.qa), blocked or unavailable, FB page ok (Arabic at facebook.com/qnapage/, English at facebook.com/QNAEN/) (13 Jun 2017).
    • Qatar Tribune (www.qatar-tribune.com), blocked, epaper at www.qatartribuneepaper.qa ok, FB page ok (facebook.com/QatarTribune/) (13 Jun 2017).
    • The Peninsula Qatar (newspaper, www.thepeninsulaqatar.com) - website reported as blocked in the UAE by the newspaper, but article was available to read in the UAE on a Du connection, appears to be blocked by Etisalat only ... so far (07 Jun 2017). Report said Gulf Times and Qatar Tribune websites also blocked. Ref:
  • Internet users in the UAE warned not to say anything online supporting Qatar or criticising the UAE's policies towards Qatar, or risk penalties of up to at least AED 500,000 fine and up to 15 years in jail (07 Jun 2017 reports, 15 year jail reference not found in English text version of law). It would be prudent to assume this also means anything critical of Bahrain, KSA, and other countries which have cut ties with Qatar. This includes websites, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, blog posts and comments, comments on newspaper websites, Wikipedia article edits, Whatsapp, etc. The UAE is serious about this, people have found in the past that a rant on FB can result in being locked up in the UAE, even if posted when they are outside the UAE.
    • www.reuters.com/article/uk-gulf-qatar-idUKKBN18Y0D7
    • ejustice.gov.ae/downloads/latest_laws/cybercrimes_5_2012_en.pdf (English text of the relevant law).
    • UAE cybercrime law (Law No. 5 of 2012) a relevant legal text appears to be Article 24 which states "... temporary imprisonment and a fine not less than five hundred thousand dirhams and not in excess of one million dirhams ...".
    • Article 26 refers to cybercrimes related to terrorist and other unauthorized groups with penalties of "... imprisonment for a period of at least five years and a fine not less than one million dirhams and not in excess of two million dirhams ..."
    • Articles 27-32, 39, 44, 46 might also apply to varying degrees. If you think your FB post showing a Qatar flag with a message of support is not a big deal in the UAE, read the law and previous stories of people who thought the same way, you might change your mind.
  • UAE newspapers have published articles sympathetic to Qatar, not clear if this means they are exempt, or something else, but don't assume what they publish is an example of what is or is not permitted. If you say similar things in your blog or on FB, and you get prosecuted for it, pointing a finger at another publication is unlikely to be a successful defence.
  • Diplomatic ties cut by Bahrain, Egypt (not a GCC country), Libya ... sort of (not GCC, Reuters report, and it's complicated, see below), Maldives (not GCC, Al Arabiya report), Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen (not GCC, BBC report). And on 06 Jun 2017, The Philippines said it would not allow citizens to travel to Qatar for work (see below), but did not say diplomatic ties would be severed.
    • BBC reported 05 Jun 2017 that "The move to end ties bans citizens from Saudi, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya and Yemen from travelling to Qatar, living there or passing through it, according to the Saudi government. People affected have 14 days to leave. Meanwhile Qataris will have the same amount of time to get out of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain." Directives for citizens from Egypt, Libya, and Yemen not confirmed. The Saudi government statement we read does not say exactly what the BBC reported. A Reuters report of the SPA statement said "The decision forbids Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens from traveling to Qatar, residing in it or passing through it, SPA said. Residents and visitors of those countries must leave Qatar within 14 days. Qatari citizens have 14 days to leave Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar", which did not include Egypt, Libya, Maldives, Yemen from the directives.
    • Bahrain: First to announce suspension of diplomatic ties with Qatar and closure of transport links.
      • Bahrain embassy in Doha to close or suspend services, and Bahraini diplomatic personnel to leave within 48 hours.
      • Qatari citizens living in or visiting Bahrain must leave within 14 days. Bahraini citizens prohibited from living in or visiting Qatar but departure time frame not given for those already in Qatar.
      • Expats resident in Qatar but visiting Bahrain, and expats from Bahrain in Qatar not included in expulsion? MOFA statement did not give an explicit directive for those groups.
      • Bahrain MOFA statement (05 Jun 2017): "The Kingdom of Bahrain announces the severance of diplomatic relations with the State of Qatar to preserve its national security as well as the withdrawal of the Bahraini diplomatic mission from Doha, to provide all members of the Qatari diplomatic mission 48 hours to leave the country with the completion of the necessary procedures and the closure of airspace, ports and the territorial waters for shipping to and from Qatar within 24 hours of this statement. As the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain prohibits citizens from traveling to or residing in Qatar, it regrets that Qatari nationals will not be allowed to enter or pass through its territory. It also grants Qatari residents and visitors 14 days to leave the Kingdom ..."
    • Comoros: diplomatic relations with Qatar downgraded or suspended.
    • Djibouti: diplomatic relations with Qatar "downgraded" (announced Wed 07 Jun 2017).
    • Egypt:
      • Al Ahram news agency reported that "Egypt announced the closure of its airspace and seaports for all Qatari transportation to protect its national security, the foreign ministry said in a statement", but did not say from when. Other sources said the same thing, referring to "Egyptian state media", presumably referring to MENA, but no report found on MENA website (most or all articles on MENA website inaccessible anyway).
      • Qatari Ambassador to Egypt given 48 hours to leave, and Egyptian chargé d'affaires in Doha instructed to return to Cairo within 48 hours (sources: Reuters, Al Ahram, Egyptian MFA, SPA).
      • BBC reported that the Saudi government said Egyptian citizens were banned from traveling through or to Qatar, and those presently in Qatar have 14 days to leave. No information about directives to Qatari citizens in Egypt, or what the Egyptian government said.
    • Jordan: announced they would "downgrade" diplomatic ties with Qatar, and revoke the operating license for Al Jazeera TV.
    • Libya sort of severed ties. Report said a statement was made by the Libyan government foreign minister in Bayda, which is different from the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli, which has not made a statement (so far). So Libyans in the GCC, GCC citizens in Libya, and flights to and from Tripoli are probably not affected ... yet.
    • Maldives: Foreign Ministry statements says "The Government of Maldives has decided to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar effective from today, 5 June 2017". No further information provided regarding transport links, diplomatic relations, or directives to Qatari or Maldivian citizens. Probably unrelated but ... in Mar 2017, the Qatari MFA issued a statement saying "The foreign ministry warns citizens against travelling to Maldives this moment due to the spread of H1N1 virus".
    • Mauritania (west African country): diplomatic ties with Qatar severed or downgraded (07 Jun 2017 reports).
      • Mauritania has an embassy in Doha, Qatar. Qatar has an embassy in Nouakchott, Islamic Republic of Mauritania. References:
        • mofa.gov.qa/en/qatar/qatar-and-the-world?country=MR#The-World
        • nouakchott.embassy.qa/en/home
    • Mauritius (Indian Ocean island): 07 Jun 2017 reports (arabnews.com) say ties cut with Qatar, but MFA statement 06 Jun 2017 seems to say the opposite: "... favours dialogue between the countries involved in the interest of peace and stability in the region and in the world."
      • Mauritius MFA statement: foreign.govmu.org/English/Documents/Communique%20-%20Gulf%20region.pdf
      • In May 2016, the Mauritian President met the Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs in Doha, a Qatar MOFA statement said "The meeting reviewed bilateral relations between the two friendly countries and means of boosting and promoting them in addition to a set of issues of mutual interest."
      • No direct representation of Qatar in Mauritius, Qatari ambassador at embassy in Mbabane, Swaziland is non-resident ambassador to Mauritius.
      • No direct representation of Mauritius in Qatar. Possibly represented by Mauritius embassies in Egypt or Pakistan. Mauritius embassy in Pakistan website says "Mauritian nationals currently living/based/studying in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the State of Qatar, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Bahrain are kindly requested to register with the High Commission of the Republic of Mauritius in Islamabad ...". No reference to Qatar found on Mauritius embassy in Cairo website.
    • Morocco: no news of diplomatic ties cut with Qatar (yet), but Royal Air Maroc cancelled flights to and via Doha (07 Jun 2017 reports).
    • Pakistan: said they had no plans to cut ties with Qatar (05 Jun 2017 Reuters report): www.reuters.com/article/gulf-qatar-pakistan-idUKL3N1J22BH.
    • Philippines:
      • 07 Jun 2017: Previous announcement revoked according to Reuters report: "Filipinos who have job contracts in Qatar will be allowed to go there, the Philippine labor secretary said on Wednesday, scrapping a previously announced ban on the deployment of workers there." Reference www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-qatar-philippines-idUSKBN18Y19W. DOLE website does not show latest update, most recent statement is still the one suspending OFWs from going to Qatar. No update found on Philippines News Agency website either (www.pna.gov.ph), but other PH and international media report the ban has been lifted.
      • 06 Jun 2017 press release said The Philippines would stop workers from going to Qatar indefinitely or temporarily. Presumably meaning Filipinos trying to exit PH on flights to Qatar, since it seems unlikely the PH government can stop them from traveling from other countries to Qatar. References:
        • www.dole.gov.ph/news/view/3725 - "DOLE suspends deployment of OFWs to Qatar" (06 Jun 2017).
        • www.pna.gov.ph/articles/993757 (06 Jun 2017).
        • www.pna.gov.ph/articles/993816 - "BSP reviews impact of OFW deployment ban to Qatar" (06 Jun 2017).
      • Nothing said in statement regarding a ban on PH citizens already living in or visiting Qatar, or PH citizens planning to visit Qatar for business or holiday, or suspension of diplomatic relations with Qatar. In fact the statement made a point of saying "... OFWs should not worry as Philippines still maintains good diplomatic relations with Qatar."
    • Qatar:
      • Qatari diplomats in the UAE given 48 hrs to leave. Same directive issued for Qatari diplomats in Bahrain and KSA, but similar announcement not made for Qatari diplomats in Egypt, Libya, Maldives, Yemen?
      • Qatari citizens visiting or living in the UAE given 14 days to leave. Same directive for Bahrain and KSA, but not other countries which severed ties with Qatar?
      • Expat residents of Qatar visiting the UAE probably not required to leave but try and confirm with an official authority. The UAE official statement says "... giving Qatari residents and visitors in the UAE 14 days to leave the country ..." which sounds like Qatari nationals who are living in or visiting the UAE, rather than non-Qatari residents or visitors in Qatar, who are in the UAE. But Bahraini, Saudia Arabian, Egyptian nationals might have difficulties going to or through Qatar from the UAE.
      • Citizens of Bahrain, KSA, UAE, residing in or visiting Qatar instructed to leave within 14 days. Diplomats from those countries living in Qatar to leave within 48 hrs?
    • Saudi Arabia (KSA):
      • Qatari diplomats given 48 hours to leave KSA (reported by many sources but explicit official statement not found)?
      • Qatari citizens banned from entry to or transit through KSA. Those living in or visiting KSA must leave within 14 days. Statement wording (on SPA website) refers to "Qatari citizens" or "Qatari", implying directives do not apply to expat residents of Qatar - they are not "Qataris". But expat UAE, Egyptian, or Bahraini nationals in Qatar will be affected by directives from their respective countries.
      • Haj pilgrims from Qatar (citizens, not expat residents) currently in KSA exempted from expulsion directives according to some reports, but SPA report (English version) says they must leave within 14 days. For example, the Saudi Gazette says "However, this decision does not affect Qatari Haj and Umrah pilgrims", and Khaleej Times says "However, these directives do not affect Qatari pilgrims currently in Saudi Arabia", referring to the 14 day expulsion deadline and quoting the SPA report which says the deadline does apply.
      • Some reports also say that Qatari Haj pilgrims planning to travel to KSA can still do so, but the SPA report says they will be denied entry (which would happen by default anyway since transport links have been severed, unless they route via another country). For example the Gulf News says "Qataris still able to visit KSA for Haj", and Doha News says "Qatari pilgrims can still perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia", quoting the SPA report which contradicts their headlines.
      • SPA report 05 Jun 2017 about Umrah: "The decision, for security reasons, unfortunately prevents Qatari citizens' entry to or transit through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and those Qatari residents and visitors have to leave Saudi territories within 14 days, confirming the Kingdom's commitment and keenness to provide all facilities and services for Qatari pilgrims and Umrah performers."
    • UAE:
      • 08 Jun 2017 (WAM): Emirates Post Group (EPG) has suspended all postal services to Qatar with effect from 06 Jun 2017 indefinitely.
        • www.wam.org.ae/en/details/1395302618125
      • 07 Jun 2017: Reports said that some but not all exchange centers (and banks?) were no longer accepting or giving out Qatar Riyals (QAR) in exchange for other currencies, and the few who still were, were taking a 10% cut on the official exchange rate. No information (yet) on wire or online transactions between Qatar and other countries.
      • 06 Jun 2017 (WAM): Statement issued that said expats with Qatari residence visas would be restricted from entering the UAE (different from what we thought on 05 Jun 2017): "In addition, expatriates residing in Qatar and in possession of a Qatari Residence Visa shall not be eligible for Visa on Arrival in the UAE." No information seen about a similar restriction imposed by Qatar or UAE for expats holding UAE residence visas visiting or planning to visit Qatar.
      • 05 Jun 2017: UAE citizens (not expat residents or visitors to the UAE) banned from traveling to or through Qatar. Statement from UAE implies that UAE citizens already in Qatar must leave but no timeline given: "UAE nationals are likewise banned from traveling to or staying in Qatar or transiting through its territories".
      • [See WAM statement 06 Jun 2017] 05 Jun 2017: Khaleej Times and Reuters said "Residents and visitors of those countries must leave Qatar within 14 days", referring to Bahrain, Saudi, and UAE; implying non-national expats and tourists from those countries who are in Qatar, must leave Qatar. This might be a misinterpretation of the original statements from Bahrain, KSA, and UAE, which referred to "Qatari residents and visitors in ..." the respective countries. We understand that to mean Qatari citizens who are resident in or visiting the UAE, not expat residents of Qatar (they are not Qataris) who are resident in or visiting the UAE.
    • Yemen:
      • Reuters said "Yemen's internationally recognized government cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of working with its enemies in the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, state news agency Saba reported" (05 Jun 2017, not found on Saba news website www.sabanews.net/en/).
      • Qatar's participation in the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Al-Houthi group in Yemen to be ended.
      • No other information reported regarding directives issued to Yemenis in Qatar, Qataris in Yemen, or transport links between Qatar and Yemen.
  • Air, land, and sea connections with Qatar have been (Saudi Arabia?) or will be cut. Statement from UAE says within 24 hrs, i.e. by Tuesday morning. QR offices closed in KSA (from 06 Jun 2017), UAE (from 07 Jun 2017).
    • Airspace restrictions: Qatar Airlines and aircraft registered in Qatar to be banned from flying through airspace controlled by countries which have severed ties, not yet clear if this restriction also applies to other aircraft flying out of Qatar.
    • Bahrain:
      • [Check] 06 Jun 2017: The Bahrain Civil Aviation Authority announced that Qatar Airways operating license would be revoked, similar to the statement by the Saudi Aviation Authority.
      • 05 Jun 2017: Gulf Air announced suspension of flights to and from Doha starting from 06 Jun 2017.
    • Egypt: Egyptair expected to stop flights between Cairo (CAI) and Doha (DOH) (BBC report). Other reports said Egypt would close air and sea port transport links to and from Qatar but did not say when.
    • Jordan (06 Jun 2017): Comment seen that QR flights between AMM and DOH cancelled or suspended. Appears to be incorrect, flightstats.com showing QR (and RJ) flights operating normally between DOH and AMM.
    • Morocco (07 Jun 2017): Reports said Royal Air Maroc cancelled flights via Doha to Egypt, KSA, UAE, Yemen (arabnews.com). Bahrain not mentioned, and presumably direct flights to those countries from Morocco are still operating.
    • Saudi Arabia (KSA):
      • 06 Jun 2017 (SPA): "The General Authority of Civil Aviation has decided to cancel all licenses granted to Qatar Airways, close all its offices in the Kingdom within 48 hours from the date of the announcement and withdraw the licenses granted by the Authority to all Qatar Airways employees." Not clear what the phrasing licenses to employees refers to ... if it means all QR employees must leave the KSA, or something else.
      • 05 Jun 2017 (SPA): Air, land and sea borders, and transport connections closed with immediate effect, QR and Sadia flights cancelled.
    • UAE:
      • 07 Jun 2017: QR offices closed in the UAE. Statement from the UAE GCAA said "The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority has taken the decision to close all offices of Qatar Airways in the United Arab Emirates with immediate effect." (WAM and other media reports). So far QR website not blocked in the UAE, and phone calls to Qatar from UAE are not blocked.
      • 05 Jun 2017: "Closure of UAE airspace and seaports for all Qataris in 24 hours and banning all Qatari means of transportation, coming to or leaving the UAE, from crossing, entering or leaving the UAE territories ..." (UAE MFA). This implies QR flights will be banned from UAE and UAE airspace by Tuesday 05 Jun 2017 sometime. QR flights to and from UAE were still operating on Monday afternoon 05 Jun 2017. If or when direct links to Qatar are closed, non-Emirati visitors and residents in the UAE can presumably still get to Doha by flying via Kuwait or Muscat (Oman) ... unless those two countries also sever ties with Qatar.
  • UAE based airlines Air Arabia (referred to as Al-Rabia in some reports), Emirates (EK), Etihad (EY), FlyDubai have all announced suspension of all flights between Doha and the UAE, effective from 06 Jun 2017 (Tuesday), last flights Monday night or early Tuesday morning between 0000 and 0400.
    • Also Royal Jet announced on 06 Jun 2017 suspension of flights to and from Doha.
  • Other airlines announcing suspension of flights to and from Qatar: Gulf Air (Bahrain) effective midnight 05 Jun 2017 (Gulf Air (GF) and Bahrain News Agency (BNA) statements), Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia, SV). Flynas (XY) doesn't fly to Doha.
  • QR Travel Alerts page has official QR announcements. Contact number (in Qatar) given as +974-40230072 but good luck getting through to them at present.
    • www.qatarairways.com/us/en/travel-alerts.page
      • 06 Jun 2017 update: "Qatar Airways has arranged for three chartered flights on Oman Air to travel from Jeddah to Muscat today, Tuesday 6th June 2017. A connecting Qatar Airways flight will then transport passengers onwards from Muscat, Oman, to Doha, Qatar."
      • 06 Jun 2017 update: "Qatar Airways has suspended all flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt until further notice."
      • 05 Jun 2017: QR announced suspension of all flights between Doha and Saudi Arabia but only for Monday so far: "Qatar Airways has suspended all flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia until 23:59 UTC on 05th June (02.59 Doha Time on 6th June)." No information from QR so far if that means flights will resume on Tue after that time, or the suspension will continue indefinitely, but website booking page allows flights between Qatar and KSA to be booked from Fri 09 Jun 2017 (05-08 Jun all show as not available).
    • mobile.twitter.com/qatarairways (desktop version at www.twitter.com/qatarairways seems to be lagging mobile version with updates).
    • Ignore twitter.com/qatarflights, it appears to be unofficial or not updated or both.
  • Qatar Airways (QR) website booking check (05 Jun 2017):
    • Egypt (Alexandria HBE, Cairo CAI, Luxor LXR): flights not available from 05-08 Jun 2017, available from 09 Jun 2017 and after.
    • KSA: flights unavailable from 05-08 Jun 2017, can be booked from Fri 09 Jun 2017 onwards.
    • Bahrain (BAH), UAE (AUH, DWC, DXB, RKT, SHJ): flights still available on 05 Jun 2017, not available 06-08 Jun 2017, available from 09 Jun 2017.
    • Kuwait City (KWI), Maldives (Male MLE), Oman (Muscat MCT, Salalah SLL): no restrictions on availability.
    • Libya (Tripoli), Yemen (Sana'a): no flights (not QR destinations, or flights suspended previously)
  • Land border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is closed (BBC report). It is the only land border Qatar has with any country.
  • Al Jazeera news website blocked in the UAE (mobile site still accessible on du connection as of 05 Jun 2017). Also reportedly blocked in Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia.

References and further reading

Why has this happened? TL;DR version is that Qatar is accused (Qatar denies the accusations) of supporting terrorist organisations including Al Qaeda, ISIS (Islamic State, Daesh) and Muslim Brotherhood, and interfering with domestic affairs of other countries in the Gulf and Arab regions. More reading in these reports ...

And back to the original page about the GCC countries (information below not updated to reflect June 2017 events) ...

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

  • Egypt - is not a GCC country. Is an Arab Muslim country (mostly, also a significant Christian population).
  • 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).
  • Jordan - is an Arab Muslim country but not part of the GCC.
  • Palestine - is not a GCC country.
  • 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
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]

  • 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 they get the nationality of their father (and/or possibly their mother depending on laws in the respective countries of mother's and father's citizenship).
    • [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


  • 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 by all GCC countries to be occupying Palestinian territories illegally.
  • 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.
Last update Monday 31-Jul-2017. Page development 4L 5C.
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