The United Arab Emirates has issued its first civil marriage licence to a non-Muslim couple, state media reports.
The Gulf state where foreigners make up 90 percent of the approximately 10-million population has been amending its laws to make it more inclusive.
The official WAM news agency said a Canadian couple were the first to marry under a new law on the personal status of non-Muslims in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi.
The move “contributes to the consolidation of Abu Dhabi’s position as a world leading destination for skills and expertise from around the world,” WAM said.
Civil marriage in the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, is uncommon and usually conducted under a religious authority of one of the three monotheistic beliefs.
Civil marriages are allowed in Tunisia and Algeria.
While some countries in the region allow civil unions based on certain conditions, some only recognise civil marriages conducted abroad and others not at all.
The UAE has taken measures in the past year to make its economy more attractive to foreign investment and talent, including introducing longer-term visas.
It has also revised laws regarding cohabitation before marriage, alcohol and personal status laws.
Earlier this month, UAE announced all government entities will adopt a new Western-style work-week schedule consisting of four-and-a-half days with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend.
Competition is hotting up as neighbouring Saudi Arabia, seeking to diversify its oil-reliant economy, aims to turn its capital Riyadh into an international hub.
Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on women driving and eased its strict Muslim dress code.
Last year, Riyadh said it would not sign contracts with companies that have their regional headquarters outside the kingdom.