Since the discovery of oil in the Gulf countries, the development of these countries has taken a different trajectory. People migrated in search of work and soon started to settle in the area. This migration of workers boosted the process of globalization in the Gulf area. Various people from various countries came across Gulf countries in search of work. No doubt the societal values of the Gulf were strict at the beginning, but a gradual and slow change in the social structure was seen (El-Haddad, 2003). 

Cultural Globalization in the Gulf - Sheet1
Dubai’s famous Global Village_©Nick Hannes

With the discovery of oil and foreign companies settling in the region, urbanization as well as modernisation was bound to happen. These two factors were prominent reasons that drove the countries to face a third factor called globalization. Arabs who originally moved around the region as big communities started to settle down area-wise. Once temporary houses were made out of concrete. The change in societal structure also brought changes in family values along with a gradual change in their culture over the years. Globalization then affected their patterns of consumerism along with increased personal interests and materialistic values became widespread (El-Haddad, 2003). 

A Change in Family Structure

Traditionally, families lived together as a whole community. This was slowly disappearing as families started becoming smaller. If the region saw emigrants settling from different countries, then some Arab families started to settle in different regions, depending on their jobs. The much larger family now started becoming nuclear families. Hence a change was observed in the family structure of the region. The basic family values however have not yet succumbed to the global factor (El-Haddad, 2003). 

Even within the family, the trend of having a foreign maid or babysitter is prominent in almost every part of the Gulf countries. This is one of the first steps where an Arab child is introduced to someone outside their community. Although the maids have to speak Arabic, not many of them do. Since they are new to the country and the environment they tend to speak English during their first few months. This is picked up by the child. At a micro stage, this affects the future of that household. The language and culture are not supposedly lost but are threatened in this process of having a foreign caretaker (El-Haddad, 2003). 

Driving Forces of Globalisation 

Socialization is another key factor in bringing changes in Arab society. With education being constantly present in society, people started socializing even more. What triggered it was the decline in natural resources. When the oil-led economy started to decline, the governments started searching for alternate solutions. Imports and exports of food items increased. Import and export of locally made items started, while imported items that were consumed by emigrants could now be found in the markets (El-Haddad, 2003). Therefore, trade investments are an integral factor of globalization. For example, in the case of the Sultanate of Oman, the government took proper measures to revive the economy.

The country was affected negatively in 2014 in terms of an oil-based economy, therefore the sultan of the sultanate decided to bring in a 5-year plan that took care of the economy through increased exports, less government spending, faster infrastructure developments, creating good relationships between private and public sectors and maintaining national income within the country. This plan focused on tourism, industries, mining and fisheries, and logistics but most importantly it focused on building relationships of public and private sectors with local as well as international bodies, rather than just depending on the government. By 2017 the Sultanate was able to create a commercial balance sheet with a surplus of RO 492.5 million while oil exports profited RO 5,840.3 billion and nonoil exports stood for RO 2,398.3 billion (Oman in focus,2017). 

Cultural Globalization in the Gulf - Sheet2
People from different countries gather to participate an event in Oman_©NRTP

Globalization has been an integral part of developing Oman for ages, and one constant mechanism is the ports. In terms of invested capital, the country is expecting revenues from Al Salalah port in the south, the Sohar project in the north, and the Al Doqum industrial area in the middle of the country. The largest out of the three is the Sohar project which includes a free zone, an airport, an industrial port, and an industrial area. Although the port existed before, the industrialization and expansion of the port started in 2000 have resulted in positive results for the economy of the country (Al Awadhi,2017). 

Advancements in technologies also led to the factor of globalization. Establishment and innovations in the field of transportation and communications and industrialisation  made the region more accessible to the world. With ease of access, the countries became more open to trade and investments (Al-Yousif, 2004). Now the leading factor of the economy in this region is trade. There are many business-friendly regions like Dubai. Riyadh, Sharjah. The Kingdom of Bahrain has been known as a business-friendly country for more than a decade now. 

2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar_©Catherine

While some regions are trying to preserve their identity, some have already given in to globalization. Globalization may not be all negative to the region as advancements in society are seen toward a positive future. However, losing one’s identity to cultural globalization can be concerning for any region. The GCC countries are one such example. Several factors lead to a change in the culture of a region. And in terms of the Gulf region, it’s not just globalization. Several other prominent factors are leading to changes in the state of the Gulf region. 

References :

  1. El-Haddad, Y. (no date) Major trends affecting families in the Gulf Countries. Available at: (Accessed: 08 September 2023). 
  2. Al-Yousif, Y.K. (no date) Oil economies and globalization: The case of the GCC countries. Available at: (Accessed: 09 September 2023). 
  3. Al Awadhi, T., (PDF) Local Spatial Impacts of Globalization in Developing … Available at: [Accessed September 8, 2023]. 
  4. Publications, K. & Krestpublications, Oman in focus 2017. Issuu. Available at: [Accessed September 7, 2023].
  5. Krane, J. (2021a) Pictures of globalization and tourism in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Travel. Available at: (Accessed: 18 September 2023). 
  6. Wooldridge, A. (2022) Qatar’s World Cup is a win for globalization, Available at: (Accessed: 18 September 2023). 
  7. Oman connecting cultures initiative: A participant reflection (no date) Peacemakers Network. Available at: (Accessed: 18 September 2023). 

Asma is a fresh graduate, eager to learn more about the architectural industry. Apart from her interest in architecture, she enjoys exploring new languages and culture as she believes both of them have a strong impact on architecture. She loves to write and has a poetic outlook on life.