How Dubai survives without a postal service

You may have trouble sending a letter to the United Arab Emirates if you don’t have a post office box. That’s because Dubai has no street addresses, no zip codes or area codes, and no postal delivery service. Somehow, the city manages to not just survive, but thrive as a major regional hub and international center of finance and commerce. How?

The UAE has a postal agency called Emirates Post, which operates the post offices across the country and which has about two dozen branches in Dubai, a city of about 2 million people. These branches hold post office boxes, where mail of all sizes can be delivered, but they do not deliver this mail to the recipients. It is the responsibility of the recipient to contract a post office box and check this to receive mail. (Not surprisingly, this can be a major hassle for anyone who works a full day at work, but fortunately, these post offices are generally open 24 hours a day.)

This means that addresses in Dubai are incredibly basic. If you have a PO box number, the only information you need to get something delivered is:

Mr./Ms. XYZ
P.O. Box #####
Dubai, UAE

Dubai also does not have numbered street addresses, probably because construction is so prevelant and roads are always changing that building numbers would be constantly changing. That provides a different conundrum if you want something delivered by international courier such as FedEx or DHL. The sender must write an address to best describe the place of deliver, typically listing the building name and neighborhood description. For example:

Mr. XYZ
Suite No. 999
XYZ Building
Jebel Ali Freezone, Gate 2, First right after entry
Dubai, UAE

Just make sure you include a reliable phone number so the couriers can ask for directions and confirm delivery time. The same happens when you have things delivered. Stores often include a form for drawing a map to your home to avoid confusion.

How do you survive in environment like this? Actually, it’s amazingly convenient. Because everyone in the UAE has to work somewhere, the solution (for most white collar workers) is to have mail delivered directly to the office, which at this Viceroy’s administrative office is checked diligently twice a day by an office worker. Any mail is personally dropped off at my desk. Interestingly enough, this means that the UAE’s bizarre system of no postal delivery actually makes mail delivery incredibly convenient.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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3 Responses to How Dubai survives without a postal service

  1. Master Cook says:

    Actually, this sounds incredibly convenient, provided post offices are in many locations and open long after normal work hours. I’ll bet the post office employes in Dubai are not unionized.

    I wish it would be culturally more acceptable to have personal mail delivered at work. I could see a situation where everyone got their mail delivered at work, and post offices cut back on their home delivery routes (though keeping some carriers on the routes, since 40% of adults don’t have regular jobs), and delivered to businesses twice a day. In the US, they are already eliminating weekend service as it is, so this would be a net gain in terms of convenience for most people.

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  3. Bharat says:

    I have been living in the UAE for 2 years now. I agree with the comment of convenience of mail delivery via P O Box for someone who has really white ‘white collar’ job. For the rest of the lot, its definitely not that convenient.

    In fact it is a major hassle. You don’t want people to know about who you get your mail from. I mean I don’t mind if someone accidentally finds out but I love my privacy. I come from a country where tampering with private mail is called ‘mail fraud’ ( most democratic countries have this privilege given to its citizen and its taken for granted ) But here in UAE, you are in a different world.

    Giving my employer virtual access to my mails is definitely a problem. Unless of course you don’t care about the employer or if you are working in a government organisation with hundreds of people.

    Once you change your job, which is again not a very easy thing in this part of the world, you would potentially get some of your mail at your ex-employer, which is nothing short of a disaster in this part of the world. It is as good as lost! Compromised credit card statement or other important mail if it arrived at your ex-employer is going to be open letter, read out and circulated if necessary.

    Ex-employers would particularly open your mails once you leave the company when they are addressed from banks. For no reason they find it necessary to invade your financial status. Most would go a step further and inform the banks that you no longer work there, resulting in your credit cards being blocked and your bank accounts frozen.

    List of nightmares in endless.

    It is about time the country gets its mail delivered to its people. Postal service is a basic right not an optional service. We so take it for granted…. even POW’s can send and receive mails! It gets delivered right to hell ( i am sure its hell where they holding you) Beat that.