Starting a business is an exciting venture, and the location you choose can significantly impact its success. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), both Dubai and Sharjah have emerged as popular destinations for entrepreneurs seeking a dynamic and thriving business environment. Each emirate offers unique advantages and opportunities, making the decision between Dubai and Sharjah a crucial one. This article aims to explore the key aspects of setting up a business in these two emirates, providing valuable insights to help you make an informed choice for your entrepreneurial journey.

Dubai - The Business Hub

Dubai is synonymous with innovation, opulence, and ambitious development. Known as a global business hub, this emirate has earned a reputation for attracting investors and entrepreneurs from all corners of the world. Here are some compelling reasons why Dubai is an attractive destination to set up a business:

Advantages of Setting Up a Business in Dubai

  1. Strategic Location: Situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Dubai enjoys a strategic location that facilitates access to a vast market. Its well-connected airports and seaports make it an ideal hub for international trade.

  2. Business-Friendly Environment: Dubai boasts a pro-business environment with minimal bureaucracy and a streamlined company registration process. The government actively supports entrepreneurship and offers various incentives to businesses.

  3. Diverse Economy: Dubai's economy is not solely reliant on oil, but instead, it has diversified into sectors like tourism, real estate, finance, technology, and more. This diversification creates numerous business opportunities.

  4. Free Zones: Dubai has designated free zones that provide 100% foreign ownership, tax exemptions, and custom duty benefits, making them attractive for businesses in specific industries.

  5. Infrastructure and Connectivity: The emirate boasts state-of-the-art infrastructure, including world-class transportation, modern office spaces, and advanced communication systems.

Challenges in Dubai

  1. High Living Costs: Dubai's cosmopolitan lifestyle comes with higher living costs, including accommodation, education, and recreational expenses.

  2. Competition: Due to its popularity as a business destination, competition can be intense, especially in certain sectors.

Sharjah - The Cultural Capital

Sharjah, the third-largest emirate in the UAE, is known for its rich cultural heritage and historical significance. While it may not have the same level of glitz as Dubai, Sharjah has its own set of advantages for entrepreneurs:

Advantages of Setting Up a Business in Sharjah

  1. Affordability: Compared to Dubai, Sharjah offers a more affordable cost of living and business setup, making it an attractive option for startups and small businesses.

  2. Cultural and Educational Hub: Sharjah is renowned for its commitment to education and culture. It is home to several universities, museums, and cultural centers, fostering an environment of learning and creativity.

  3. Strategic Location: Sharjah's location, adjacent to Dubai, provides easy access to the global market. The emirate's ports and proximity to major airports facilitate seamless trade.

  4. Business Incentives: Sharjah provides various incentives for businesses, such as tax breaks and subsidies, encouraging economic growth and investment.

  5. Ease of Setup: The emirate offers a straightforward business setup process with less stringent requirements, allowing for quicker establishment.

Challenges in Sharjah

  1. Limited Free Zones: Unlike Dubai, Sharjah has fewer free zones, which may limit the options for businesses seeking 100% foreign ownership.

  2. Cultural Sensitivities: Sharjah adheres to conservative cultural norms, which may impact certain businesses' operations and marketing strategies.

Key Factors for Consideration

Before making a decision, it's essential to evaluate certain factors that can influence the success of your business in either Dubai or Sharjah. Here's a table summarizing the key considerations:

Factors Dubai Sharjah
Cost of Setup Higher setup costs due to premium location. Lower setup costs make it budget-friendly.
Business Growth Abundant growth opportunities across sectors. Growth opportunities with a focus on culture.
Market Reach Ideal for businesses targeting global markets. Strategic location for regional market access.
Competition Highly competitive environment. Moderate competition offers room to grow.
Industry Focus Diverse industries, tech, finance, tourism. Education, culture, and manufacturing.
Cultural Norms Relatively relaxed cultural norms. Adherence to conservative cultural values.
Taxation Tax-free options in free zones. Some tax incentives for specific businesses.

Key Takeaway

In conclusion, both Dubai and Sharjah offer unique advantages for setting up a business in the UAE. Dubai, as a global business hub, attracts entrepreneurs seeking a diverse and dynamic ecosystem. It excels in offering a strategic location, excellent infrastructure, and various free zones with tax benefits. However, high living costs and intense competition may be challenging factors for some businesses.

On the other hand, Sharjah's strengths lie in its affordability, cultural richness, and ease of setup. It is an excellent choice for startups, creative industries, and businesses focusing on regional markets. However, the limited availability of free zones and adherence to conservative cultural norms may impact certain ventures.

Ultimately, the decision between Dubai and Sharjah depends on your business model, industry, target market, and long-term goals. Conduct thorough research, consider your specific needs, and consult with business experts to make the best choice that aligns with your vision and objectives.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which emirate, Dubai or Sharjah, is more tax-friendly for businesses?
A: Dubai offers several free zones with tax exemptions, making it more tax-friendly compared to Sharjah.

Q: What are the main industries thriving in Dubai?
A: Dubai's economy is diversified, with industries like finance, technology, real estate, tourism, and logistics thriving.

Q: Is Sharjah's conservative culture a hindrance for international businesses?
A: While Sharjah's conservative culture may impact certain marketing strategies, businesses can adapt to respect local norms and values.

Q: Does Sharjah have free zones like Dubai?
A: Yes, Sharjah has some free zones offering various incentives to businesses, but the number is fewer compared to Dubai.

Q: Which emirate offers more opportunities for startups?
A: Sharjah's lower setup costs and supportive environment make it an attractive choice for startups.

Q: Are there any restrictions on foreign ownership in Dubai's free zones?
A: No, Dubai's free zones allow 100% foreign ownership, providing an advantage to international investors.

Q: What is the cost of living difference between Dubai and Sharjah?
A: Generally, Sharjah's cost of living is lower than Dubai, making it more affordable for residents and businesses.

Q: Which emirate has better access to regional markets?
A: Sharjah's strategic location, adjacent to Dubai and major ports, provides excellent access to regional markets.

Q: What are the essential documents required for business setup in Dubai?
A: The required documents vary based on the business type, but commonly include passport copies, visa, and registration forms.

Q: Does Dubai's competitive environment favor established businesses?
A: While competition can be intense in Dubai, the market also presents abundant opportunities for established businesses.

Q: Is English widely spoken in both Dubai and Sharjah?
A: Yes, English is commonly spoken and used for business transactions in both emirates.

Q: Which emirate has a stronger focus on cultural heritage?
A: Sharjah is renowned for its commitment to preserving and promoting its cultural heritage through various initiatives.

Q: Can a business based in Sharjah operate in Dubai and vice versa?
A: Yes, businesses based in one emirate can operate in the other, but specific licenses and approvals may be required.

Q: Are there any restrictions on the type of businesses allowed in Sharjah?
A: Some businesses may require special permits or approvals, especially those related to sensitive industries.

Q: Which emirate offers better access to skilled labor?
A: Dubai's cosmopolitan nature attracts a diverse pool of skilled labor from around the world.

Q: Are there any cultural training programs available for businesses in Dubai and Sharjah?
A: Yes, various organizations offer cultural training to help businesses navigate the local cultural landscape.

Q: What is the availability of office spaces in Sharjah compared to Dubai?
A: Sharjah offers a range of office spaces, but the selection may be more limited than the extensive options available in Dubai.

Q: Can foreign investors hold 100% ownership of companies in Sharjah?
A: In certain sectors and free zones, foreign investors can obtain 100% ownership of companies in Sharjah.

Q: Is the process of business setup quicker in Sharjah than in Dubai?
A: Generally, the business setup process in Sharjah is relatively faster and less complex than in Dubai.

Q: Which emirate has a more robust support system for startups?
A: Both Dubai and Sharjah offer support systems for startups, but the specific resources and programs may vary.


In conclusion, the choice between setting up a business in Dubai or Sharjah depends on various factors such as the nature of your business, industry focus, target market, and long-term goals. Dubai shines as a global business hub with diverse opportunities, strategic location, and excellent infrastructure. On the other hand, Sharjah offers affordability, a rich cultural heritage, and a supportive environment for startups.

When making this critical decision, it is essential to conduct thorough research, consult with experts, and assess your business needs. Both emirates have their distinct advantages and challenges, and a well-informed choice will pave the way for a successful and flourishing business venture in the UAE.