Don’t They Know It’s Friday? (Edition 3)

First published in 1998 by Motivate Publishing, Dubai. Reprinted 12 times. Edition 2 was published in 2010 having been reprinted 4 times. It was reprinted in 2013 with revisions. The book’s third edition has also been fully revised and was published in January 2017.

This business book addresses in useful detail the cross-cultural aspects of Westerners’ experiences with Gulf Arabs in the Gulf countries of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman. Moreover, it deals with the realities of business practice, and the mental stresses and strains of operating in the Gulf as a Western visitor or expatriate.

It encourages a bond of understanding between managers at home and their staff in the Gulf. It describes, in a straightforward manner, the effects of Islam upon the daily life of the expatriate, and is a useful reference book even for people who might think they already know how to behave in the Gulf. The book offers invaluable advice on the realities of Gulf life and business, thereby saving months – even years – of wasted time, effort and money.
Other books about Arabs

You can buy this book from Handshaikh on Amazon.
If you’d like many copies or if you’d like the author to sign the book please make contact: author (at)

Table of Contents

CONTENTS: Foreword by Sir James Craig GCMG; Author’s preface to the third edition.

CHAPTER 1: The scope of this book; What does this book cover – and for whom?; Gulf-resident executives and frequent visitors to the Gulf; Non Gulf-resident managers or infrequent visitors to the Gulf; General readers; Arab readers; Reading this book.

CHAPTER 2: General background; The importance of Islam; The pace of change in the Gulf; Personality – the main factor?; GEOGRAPHY; Complications; The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries; What do you mean by MENA?; ‘The Middle East’ – where’s that?; The Arab world; What is an Arab?; We are not Arabs!; Whose Gulf is it?; The three ‘tiers’ of the Arab world; Map of the UAE; The seven emirates of the UAE; Other Arab geography; POPULATION; Gulf nations’ emergence and wealth; The Gulf is young; The Gulf is small; Arab groupings; Gulf nationals’ employment; Gulf men; Gulf women; Restrictions on Gulf women reducing; A nice government job; FURTHER STUDY; The Arab Spring; Discreetly study; the sensitive subjects; Learn Arab opinion on; Common GCC currency and customs regime.

CHAPTER 3: Starting out in the Gulf; VISIT AND ENQUIRE; Major effort and cost; Business with non-Gulf Arabs; Do you have something for sale that’s really wanted?; BUSINESS TRIPS TO THE GULF; Silly or sensible programme?; Planning a Gulf tour; Targeting your; sales pitch; Come now!; Poor visitor, we live here!; Now I see you – now I don’t!; Not just a consumer market; Preparation of documents and presentation material; CLOTHING AND APPEARANCE; Mode of dress and demeanour; Western clothing; Tattoos; Modesty is not just a matter of clothing; Visiting managers take heed; Clothing in Saudi Arabia; THE GULF ARAB’S OFFICE; Getting past the gate; How to behave in an office; Office behaviour: new visitors learn from the locals; A handshake, then sit on the right-hand chair; The give and take of Gulf seating; Coffee and tea in the office; Young Gulf Arabs; YOUR SALES PITCH; When, how and how not to talk business; Young and busy; Laptop, projector and / volts; The first steps; Presentation techniques; A definition? Please write it; See and touch; Don’t tell the client what he wants; We have a very fine chef; Not so expert after all.

CHAPTER 4: Your Gulf office; TYPES OF BUSINESS; Business status examples; SELECTION OF AN AGENT OR SPONSOR; Local knowledge; Sponsorship; I’m very close to the boss now; DUE DILIGENCE; Enquire fully; Gulf confidence; and its risk; COMPANY ORGANISATION; Listen to your Gulf Uncle; Not by sector alone; Relationships between ‘Head Office’ and staff in the Gulf; Safety plan.

CHAPTER 5: The expatriates; Gulf-based staff – or none at all?; International presence; Expatriates – national types; Western expatriates – the two types; Skilled western worker status; Western managerial or professional status; Long-term western expatriates; Inflation and financial downturn.

CHAPTER 6: Selection and briefing; Differences and stress; Work permits in Saudi Arabia; Recruitment costs; Culture shock; Brief everyone; EXPATRIATE CONCERNS; Patience, resilience and hassle; Patience costs money; Four or five or more years in the Gulf?; Gulf pre-appointment reconnaissance visits; Destination reception companies; Expatriate allowances; WOMEN; Women and the selection process; Guardian in Saudi Arabia; Ability to ignore; PARTNERS; Partners and risk of removal; Living together; Other relationships; Rape; LEAVE THE CASH; Take your leave, not cash; You – not the Gulf – could be the problem.

CHAPTER 7: Travel; Introduction; Travel; Flights and airports; Visas (entry permits); Visa types; Passport validity; Iqama; Copying and retention of passports; Photos; Exiting the Gulf; DRIVING IN THE GULF; Driving licences; Driving habits; Fog in the Gulf; Pedestrians; The car horn: only a nanosecond away; Traffic accidents; Camels as road hazards; Are you insured, sir?; Driving during Ramadan; TRAVELLER AND NEW RESIDENT CHECKLIST.

CHAPTER 8: Behaviour and attitudes; GENERAL BEHAVIOUR; The West and the Gulf; Patience and the benefit of study; Awareness and tolerance of the West; Shaikh Rashid of Dubai; Sense of humour; Personal interest; Gulf Arab grooming; Holy men; GULF EDUCATION; Quick and intelligent; On the other hand; Islamic education; Rote learning; Private education; GULF NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT; We can do it all – and now!; We expect you to do well naturally; ANNOYING TO GULF ARABS; Condescension and the dangers of paternalistic attitudes; Reputation; Honour and respect; Photography; The Gulf faces its future robustly; Take the blame; take the favour; Careless talk can cost you; ANNOYING TO GULF WESTERNERS; ‘We just wanted; to make you happy’; Queue? You mean ‘Form a line’?; I know my rights (but not my responsibilities); Financial Services sector not welcome?; INTRIGUING GULF ARABS; Modern technology; Intrigue everywhere; Clear-sighted; The demands of the desert; Instinct; Falconry; Camel racing; Horse racing; Judging and trusting you; Poetry please; GIFTS; Accepting and giving gifts; Sales gifts; Thanks – but not to you; Saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’.

CHAPTER 9: Personal behaviour; body language; SHAKING HANDS; Man to man; Men and women – western circumstances; Men and women – Gulf circumstances; Hand over heart; Holding hands; RELATIONSHIPS; Kissing; Four wives; FLESH, FEET AND FINGERS; Exposed flesh; Religious police; Feet, soles and shoes; Beckoning with the fingers; Crossed legs; Shway, shway; The right way; Other gestures.

CHAPTER 10: Time and timing – the biggest frustration?; TIME ITSELF; We leave in two hours; Islam’s influence on timekeeping; ATTENDING MEETINGS ETC; Be on time; Gulf Arabs know the West; No show – no matter?; Mother; Saying no; ‘No one came to our presentation – they all went to the airport instead!’; THE GULF TODAY; Times are changing; The younger Gulf Arab; Some of us mean business; IT’S NOT ‘TIME’ THAT MATTERS – IT’S ‘TIMING’; When the moment is right; WEEKS AND DAYS; Tomorrow has already started; Gulf time zones; The former working day; The working week; Telephoning the Gulf on a Friday; Business and pleasure all together?; Public holidays (GCC).

CHAPTER 11: Language, names and writing; ARABIC; Local language; Calligraphy; Study; of Arabic; Arabic or not?; Signing Arabic documents – are you mad?; TRANSLATION; Control your translator; Business cards; Routine Arabic; Complex Arabic; Check their Arabic; JUST A FEW WORDS OF ARABIC; Greetings and; replies; In Sha’ Allah (or Inshallah); Ma Sha’ Allah; (or Maashallah); ARABIC WORDS OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD; Allah; Fatwa; Halal and Haram; Hareem; Jihad; Wasta; SPEECH; ‘I want’ and ‘Give me’; Ululation; Loud means sincere?; Arab theatre; GULF NAMES AND YOUR NAMES; Gulf name; sequence; And grandfather makes three; Names; in Gulf forms; Which Abdullah?; No hyphenated names; Gulf genealogy; Tribes and families; Tribal map; Mr Arab, please call me John – may I call you by your first name?; Meaning of Muslim names; Hello Mister John; Names of sons and daughters; Wives keep their fathers’ names; ‘Bin’ or not; How do you like your name, Muslim?; How hotels and airlines cope with Muslim names; Spelling; Muslim names in western databases etc; •; Gulf royal titles; Honoured names; Servant of God; TALKING ABOUT AND WRITING TO GULF ARABS; Don’t say that – say this!; Not good – Better; The title ‘Shaikh’; ‘Shaikh’ or ‘Sheikh’ or ‘Shaykh’ but never ‘Sheek’?; Shaikha; His Excellency and Your Excellency; Your Highness and His Highness; His Majesty; GULF COMMUNICATIONS; Phones; Delivery and collection of mail; Couriers; Examples of formal letters and faxes; Two languages, one page?; Why don’t I get; a reply to my letters and emails to the Gulf?; Security of Gulf communications; Media Content.

CHAPTER 12: Gulf business – how it all works; DECISION-MAKING NOT DECISION-TAKING; Consult – then decide; You’ll never understand the Gulf maze, westerner!; Delay? – not possible!; We’ll move the highway just for you!; Islamic endorsement in Saudi Arabia; TRUST AND LOYALTY; Trust the family first; Trust the useful stranger?; Trusted/Known – Untrusted/Unknown; Hospitality, friendship and trust; Let me have all your Gulf Arab contacts; COMMITTEES AND MEETINGS; Committees are safe; Agenda nibbling; Grazing the agenda; Gulf meetings; Testing the water; ATTENDING MEETINGS; Loss of temper; Impatience; Silence; Saying ‘no’ is rude; Never say ‘no’; Can’t say ‘No’ or ‘I don’t know!’; Post-meeting follow-up; MAJOR SALES, EXHIBITIONS, DEMONSTRATIONS AND TRIALS IN THE GULF; Sequence of a major Gulf sale; Gulf exhibitions and demonstrations; Trials and tribulations; Offset.

CHAPTER 13: Gulf business – bargaining and getting paid; The sport of bargaining; How to bargain; ‘One-liners’ always ready; Local authority to conclude deals; Everyone bargains; You can’t raise your price later!; Tough but courteous; Arab bargaining techniques – pure theatre?; Senior bargaining techniques; Concluding the deal – a walk-out?; Contractual obligations v; personal trust; GETTING PAID; No prompt or full payment? – where’s the contract?; Get it right – all of it; Copyright? Why should I pay you just for thinking?; Performance, retention bonds, sureties and bank guarantees; Disputes.

CHAPTER 14: Gulf society – what’s wasta?; The importance of wasta; Gulf societies; Desert democracy; Centralism and its power; If centralism is a problem, wasta is an answer; Me deputise? – I think not!; Wasta and the expatriate manager.

CHAPTER 15: Food; The importance of hospitality; EATING; Gulf food; Typical food found in the Gulf; Picnics; Right hand; Gulf obesity; Left hand; Fasting; MEAT; The sheep’s eye; The goat’s tongue; Pork; Forbidden food: not just pork; it’s all non-halal food; Vegetarians; ALCOHOL; Gulf countries’ attitudes to alcohol; Selling alcohol.

CHAPTER 16: Entertaining; Abdullah, come to dinner; meet the wife!; Saudi; wives’ attendance; Invitations; Official receptions; Attendance and seating; Satiated guests; Be generous; Going Dutch; Smoking; Entertaining Gulf Arabs; in a western country; Arab weddings; Hair and sword dancing; Henna; Belly dancing.

CHAPTER 17: Coping with visitors; GULF VISITORS TO YOUR FACTORY IN THE WEST; Large and small companies; Arrival in your country; VISIT ORGANISATION AND PREPARATION; Preparation for the visit; A director to direct the visit; Visit escort; The task of the escort; Drivers; Walk the course!; TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION; Travel with; the delegation?; A three or four-day ‘week’ with you; Before and after you; A smooth, personal airport arrival; Which hotel – old or new?; Who pays for; what? Two accounts?; An effortless hotel check-in; The director’s welcome; THE VISIT ITSELF; On the day; Arrival at the factory; Reception staff; The factory tour; Good, prepared speakers; HOSPITALITY; Lunch – surely the caterers know about pork and alcohol?; Some more dog meat, sir?; Prayers and prayer rooms; AFTER THE VISIT; Evenings free?; Football (soccer); Escort to withdraw – but not the driver(s); CONCLUDING THE VISIT; Departure discussions in the chairman’s car; The visitors’ own report on your company; Now keep in touch; IMPORTANT WESTERN VISITORS TO YOU, RESIDENT IN; THE GULF; Cross-cultural tensions; Dealing with; your visitors to the Gulf; Western arrogance; Welcome visitors; We trust him to sign contracts!; COPING WITH A VIP VISIT TO THE GULF; Go visitor, go!

CHAPTER 18: Stupid things to do in the Gulf and the desert; THE LIST OF STUPIDITIES; Extraordinarily stupid; Particularly stupid; THE LIST OF DESERT STUPIDITIES; Acclimatisation; Heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

CHAPTER 19: Law, death, tax, insurance, bonds and banks; Gulf laws; SHARIAH LAW; Secular legislation; God’s law; Nature and significance of Islamic law; Sources; The sections; GULF LAW COURTS; The quiet approach is best; MODERN BUSINESS LAWS; Impact of WTO rules; on Gulf business practice; Bribery and corruption; Transparency of payments; OECD convention; FCPA: go straight to jail?; UK Bribery Act: go straight (and longer) to jail?; Other anti-corruption laws; We pay the invoice – and nothing else; Sponsor’s invoice items; DEATH AND TAXES; Death; Coping with; a Gulf death; Tax; Withholding tax; Zakat; VAT; Service charges; Utility charges; GCC customs duty; BANKING; Islamic banking; Islamic financial products; Islamic finance; INVESTMENTS; Sukuk; INSURANCE; Islamic insurance.

CHAPTER 20: Muslim life; Introduction; Avoid discussion on Islam; All Arabs are Muslims so all Muslims are Arabs?; Islamic nations; Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH); Definition and background; People of the book; God’s will; The three holy places of Islam; The Qur’an; Respect the Qur’an itself; Pillars or duties of Islam; Islam everywhere; After the Prophet; The Sunnis; The Shi’a; Gulf Muslim sects; CALENDAR; Lunar months; The Muslim calendar; Conversion between AD and AH and vice versa; AH advances ten or eleven days into AD; Fridays; PRAYERS; Prayers and their observance; The qibla; Prayer timings; Five prayers per day – why are six shown in the newspapers?; Worry or prayer beads; The call to prayer; The words of the calls to prayer and their meaning; RAMADAN; The holy month; Fasting and other abstinence; Thoughts and deeds; When does Ramadan start?; Dawn, sunrise and the black and white threads; Breaking the fast; Ramadan nights; Non-Muslims’ consumption during Ramadan; Non-Muslims’ behaviour during Ramadan; Iftar and other calls; Ramadan hours of work; Tiredness and Ramadan; road safety; When does Ramadan end?; PILGRIMAGE; Duty of pilgrimage; Pilgrimage clothing; Women travelling alone; The pilgrims’ route; Umrah; FESTIVALS; Eid al-Fitr; Special Eid al-Fitr mosque; Eid al-Adha; Eid Mubarak!; Celebration of the Eids; in the West; Eid texts and cards; HOLY DAYS; Dates; Restrictions; Lailat al-Qadr; Lailat al-Miraj; Mawlid al-Nabi; Ra’s as-Sana – New Year; Ashura; MUSLIM RULES ON DIET; Halal and haram; ISLAMIC NAMES FOR GOD.

APPENDIX: Prayers, names for God, Arab groupings and clothing; The calls to prayer and their meaning; The names for God; The League of Arab States; The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); The GCC and the European Union; Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); Muslim World League (MWL); World population; map – percentage of Muslims; List of Muslim countries – The OIC; Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC); Arab and Muslim clothing.


“This is a wonderful book… well written… it corrects some stereotypical images of the Gulf… a superb effort.”
Dr Obaid Ali Bin Butti
Juma al-Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage, Dubai

“Take this book as a guide, the best I know. Be very cautious about departing from its advice, for it is full of information, common sense and good manners, all reliable.”
Sir James Criag
Former president, Middle East Association

“I am amazed at his understanding of our way of life.”
Fahad bin Mohammad Al-Attiya
Qatari Ambasador to Russia

“In conversations with British expatriates in the Middle East one piece of advice recurs: read ‘Don’t They Know It’s Friday?’ by Jeremy Williams.”
Dina Medland 2010 © FT

“One of the very few Brits who ‘gets’ the Gulf.”
Frank Gardener BBC

Book sales feedback

“No problems at all” — SDC

“I received the book that I ordered on time and undamaged.” — KVD

“Excellent book with loads of information answering all those questions one thinks about and more.” — RCT

“An excellent buying experience and the book itself is great, really informative about the region.” — MG

“Excellent service and the book is a must read – extremely insightful and useful” — WMC

“Arrived next day. Brilliant. Delighted with this seller. Thanks” — LT

“Totally reliable, excellent service. Thank you.” — AJW