According to state media reports, UAE has issued its first civil marriage licence to a non-Muslim couple.
A country of about 10 million, around 90 per cent of the country’s total population are foreigners.
Until now, marriages and divorces in the UAE have been conducted in accordance with Islamic law.
The new move is aimed at showing itself as a modern nation in the largely conservative Gulf region.
The official news agency, WAM, 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 West Asia, 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.
(With inputs from agencies)