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25 April, 2008

Parlez-vous Arabic?

Dubai@Random explains why a good working knowledge of Arabic - or at least an honest and reliable translator - can be vital for doing business in the sandlands:

"Farook asked me to join him for coffee to look over the English of a contract he'd drawn up. He wanted to be sure that the English was OK. In a way, this makes Farook more honest than a lot of people I've met in Dubai, who prepare a contract with a quite reasonable English version and a quite unreasonable Arabic version, and rely on the fact that, in a UAE court, the English has absolutely no standing.

"I should mention that, in the West, if the contract were in English and Arabic, and an Arab who'd been cheated showed that the Arabic was completely different from the English, the court might declare the contract null and void. Or it might not, deciding that English is the language of the land. But here, under the law, if the English and Arabic are completely different, it doesn't matter, only the Arabic counts."

Farook is an absolutely fascinating character, it is well worth going through D@R's archives to read more of his adventures.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how many folks signing any legal document in the UAE read the Arabic?

Rent, Property, Car Loan, Credit Cards,Phone Lies etc....the English contracts for all of these means squat.

27 April, 2008 20:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Download UltraSurf 8.9...bye bye proxy ;)

Hope you don't mind me posting that, SD - not like they're gonna ban you or anything LOL

27 April, 2008 20:11  
Blogger Dubai Entrepreneur said...

All our contracts and agreements are in English. But, yes, I have seen contracts written in very different Arabic and English. What I would do is simply sign them differently.

27 April, 2008 20:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


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28 April, 2008 02:27  
Blogger Kyle said...

What I would do is simply sign them differently.

Dubai Entrepreneur:

How do you mean, sign them differently? Unless you imply a figure of speech, wouldn't different signatures represent a breach or violation?

28 April, 2008 08:01  
Blogger Annabelle said...

Here in Saudi they do the same. Even the salary will be totally different. But if you are a domestic worker who signed for 400 dollars and you find out the Arabic version states 400 Riyal, you wouldn't have a chance to go to court anyways, as you are simply locked in the house.

29 April, 2008 12:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats quite interesting,talk about blind justice!Love your blog it has quite interesting articles ,Keep it up!

29 April, 2008 17:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no one speak arabic in Arabia? i didn't get. Does any one knows arabic in Emirates Airlines?

01 May, 2008 18:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont know why one would sign anything in arabic. i have been here for a while i havent seen any legal document in arabic (including my employment contract) but the police did give me a slip completely in arabic and since i didnt understand what to do i didnt do anything :)

03 May, 2008 11:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont understand why are arabs getting to be such cheaters.

03 May, 2008 11:37  
Blogger Annabelle said...

Why the Arabs are cheaters? Because they can, that's all. The legal system is crap, so the bad guys don't get punished and simply do it again. If the English legal system would be crap, the English would be the bad guys.

04 May, 2008 13:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Secret Dubai,
I'm writing a story on blogging in the Emirates for The National. Any interest in being interviewed? I would obviously be completely willing to keep your identity anonymous, and I never even need to know your real name. If interested, please get in touch at

04 May, 2008 15:35  
Blogger Tim Noble said...

Wow! I'm tryig to set a company up - or at least an agent - in Dubai...thanks for the tip!!!!!!!!!

don't suppose how to find a potential artner who won't steal all of my fingers, children and my watch?


04 May, 2008 18:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hubs got nailed by the Arabic 'lost in translation' many moons ago in Saudi. Once bitten, twice shy. All contracts he signs are in one language & one language only: English.

There are no doubt genuine innocent mistakes made, but sadly, the dishonest folk left a lasting reputation.

07 May, 2008 17:33  
Blogger Trustfloor said...

This is terrible I must admit
I have signed several contracts and assumed that they are bilingual and therefore both languages are the same...


07 May, 2008 23:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And it is really ridiculous.. I believe that it shall be changed soon.

07 May, 2008 23:09  
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08 May, 2008 01:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, i like

09 May, 2008 14:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a BS...if the two documents you singed are not containing the same things it is null and void...
Are the people in the Justice system of UAE that ignorant or just so vile that they don't see the true villains? Somebody should have knock some sense on there nutcase....

09 May, 2008 18:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Usually, in any contract, there is a clause saying that if there is a discrepancy between the two versions, the Arabic version is the valid one; this is because:
1- This is an Arabic-speaking country, even if the majority speak something else!
2- The clause is always mentioned in both versions, and whoever signed, agreed on it, so it’s part of the contract. If you don’t know Arabic, then bring a translator before you sign anything.
3- If you are in doubt, then have a peace of mind and consider that the contract is only written in Arabic; so learn the language or hire a translator!
4- There must be such clause to cut any dispute that may rise due to the languages difference. Some words in Arabic don’t have an exact translation in English. If this clause is not there, then there may be many cases everyday because of this only. That’s the lawyers’ job, to dig for such things!
5- I have never heard about a contract written intentionally with different versions, like dollars and riyals. If so, then definitely the doer is a bad guy, and the signer is a fool guy, who has to blame himself before anyone else!.
6- I passed by a personal experience with the legal system in UAE and found the judge very fair even if your opponent is a local guy, so let’s look at the filled half of the glass!

12 May, 2008 00:59  
Blogger Jego said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 May, 2008 12:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess we'll just have to live with it. Some people are just beyond reasoning.

13 May, 2008 00:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


13 May, 2008 00:17  
Blogger Jego said...

Way off topic.

Hi Secret Dubai,
Im accessing websites through Google Reader. Network security here prevents me from doing otherwise. However, I noticed that Secret Dubai Diary's comments page can be accessed via the Comments link at the bottom of the posts in Google Reader. Do you mind telling me how you did that? I'll relay the procedure to my friends so I can access the comment section of their blogs.

I'll appreciate the help.

Meanwhile, great blog. Very informative. We have an office in Dubai and they do a fair bit of dealing and contract signing, but since they deal with major banks, Im sure theyll be okay.

13 May, 2008 06:07  
Blogger secretdubai said...

However, I noticed that Secret Dubai Diary's comments page can be accessed via the Comments link at the bottom of the posts in Google Reader.

I have to do it manually - and rapidly. As soon as I've posted and the post is created (and therefore the comments page too) I re-edit it with a link to the comments page. I have to do it quickly so that any RSS feeds of the page pick up the edited version, not the earliest version.

13 May, 2008 06:20  
Blogger Jego said...

Thanks, SD. Much appreciated.

13 May, 2008 07:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even the salary will be totally different. But if you are a domestic worker who signed for 400 dollars and you find out the Arabic version states 400 Riyal, you wouldn't have a chance to go to court anyways, as you are simply locked in the house.see my blog myegy ماى ايجى

03 May, 2011 00:54  

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