According to UAE laws, a foreign company (establishing outside of the free-zones) MUST have a sponsor, meaning they get 51% local ownership and you have 49% of the shares.
There is the option to appoint a sales agency, many times though there are difficulties when you decide to terminate the contract. It's pretty hard because you need to present valid reasons in order to proceed with termination.
Instead, there are many big, medium and small IT distributors covering many regions (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc) with a very wide product mix. Depending on your products, you should consider finding a VAD (Value Added Distributor) who can provide additional support services as well.
The big advantages of distributors are their established channels of resellers, their logistics facilities, they can be your sales representatives, you can create joint marketing activities gaining better exposure and eliminating at the same time any cultural and language barriers.
Establishing an office in the UAE would not be my first option, instead I would prefer to find a distributor. Besides, if everything goes well and you have a decent market penetration you are in a better position to justify such an investment. Don't forget, you should always make contracts and put qualitative and quantitative targets to the distributor. You need their commitment!!!
I hope I helped a little bit.
Anaptyxis Consultants Ltd
International Market Entry &
Business Development Services