In 2023 and earlier this year in January, the UAE licensed in total 13 crypto exchanges and crypto brokers. This came at the backdrop of a more robust virtual asset regulatory ecosystem both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as a heightened awareness and interest in investing in crypto tokens, virtual assets, and digital assets.

The most important question to many who are either already investing and trading in crypto or who are just getting started is which crypto exchange or broker can serve me best. The article will look into each crypto exchange and compare them to offer a more transparent mirror of the licensed and regulated crypto exchanges in the UAE.


Starting with OKX is mainly because it is the first global exchange to receive a virtual asset license to operate their crypto exchange in the UAE. OKX received the license in January 2024, yet is still not fully operational as it finalizes certain requirements requested by Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority VARA.

However when it does start, it will offer more than 350 crypto tokens. So other than the basic offering of trading tokens or trade pairs on the spot, margin and derivatives markets, it also offers managing of DeFi portfolios, buying and selling NFTs, earn crypto in our mining pools, and take out crypto collateralized loans.

But wait all these products are not available to UAE retail and institutional clients. So far, OKX’s approved suite of duly regulated virtual assets activities includes spot services and spot-pairs, via the OKX App and exchange.

The UAE VASP License also allows OKX to offer AED deposits and withdrawals.

OKX also announced that it has developed its Arabic website to meet the needs of users in the MENA region.

Finally OKX is active on all social media platforms so engaging with the community is available through many channels.

The crypto exchange boasts of over 50 million users in more than 100 countries. It is currently seeking a license in Hong Kong.


Next in line is homegrown Crypto broker CoinMENA, which is not only now licensed in the UAE but was also one of the first to be licensed in Bahrain. CoinMENA offers the major cryptocurrencies on its platform, 52 in total.

It is fully operational and is authorized to serve Institutional Investors, qualified Investors and retail Investors. It offers spot trading of crypto assets.

CoinMENA already is fully operational and has been serving customers in the GCC and MENA region through its Bahrain licensed entity.

In addition customers can deposit money directly via bank transfer or credit/debit card to a customer’s CoinMENA Wallet, as well as withdraw money from CoinMENA Wallet directly to a client’s bank account.

CoinMENA currently serves over 900,000 users supporting seven countries.

Recently CoinMENA expanded its family office, investor and institutional offering through a partnership with Onramp Bitcoin. Onramp is an international Bitcoin asset management company built on multi institutional custody.

Crypto ExchangeRegulatory StatusPresence in
OKXCrypto ExchangeHongKong UAE
Fassetcrypto brokerUAE
CoinMENAcrypto brokerUAE Bahrain
GCEXInstitutional crypto ExchangeUAE Denmark UK
FUZECrypto brokerUAE
BackPack Exchange crypto exchangeUAE
TokoCrrypto exchange/brokerUAE
Laser DigitalCrypto BrokerUAE
RAINCrypto brokerUAE Bahrain
M2 Crypto exchangeUAE
GlomexInstitutional crypto exchangeUAE
MatrixInstitutional crypto exchangeUAE
MidchainsInstitutional crypto exchangeUAE
VenomexInstitutional crypto ExchangeUAE


M2 is a UAE Abu Dhabi Homegrown crypto exchange. It received its license back in November 2023 from ADGM. It was recognized as a fully regulated Multilateral Trading Facility (MTF) and Custodian and is now able to on-board UAE residents and institutional clients.

M2 offers spot trading and currently has 50 crypto tokens to choose from.

It will also be able to offer AED Fiat On/Off-Ramp: Allow the on/off ramp of AED with ease through its partnership with a local bank in the near future.

One of the strengths of M2 is that it is backed by strong investors, one of which is a Bitcoin mining conglomerate, Phoenix Group that helps M2 to offer its Bitcoin Earn Product. The product was launched in partnership with Phoenix crypto mining group and offers yields that reach up to 10.5%.

M2 has an equity investment of $300 million as well.


RAIN crypto broker and exchange was the first crypto broker to receive a license in the MENA region. Its operations started in Bahrain and it is now licensed in the UAE through ADGM in Abu Dhabi.

On the landing page of RAIN the first thing a user sees is the 0% trading fee. RAIN offers 70 crypto tokens to trade with. RAIN also offers crypto swaps.

It also is able to offer AED Fiat On/Off-Ramp: Allow the on/off ramp of AED with ease through its partnership with UAE local banks.

Like most of the major exchanges it has a mobile application, and is present on most social media channels.


In November 2023, Fasset received its crypto broker license from Dubai’s regulator VARA. This license follows Fasset’s launch in Indonesia in August, where it partnered with Mastercard Indonesia and telco giant Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison.

Fasset offers five crypto tokens to trade with.

On its website, unlike other crypto exchanges, Fasset states that it offers gold investments using blockchain technology, crypto staking and other products. How much of this they can offer with their license in VARA is not clear. But it would be a surprise if they could offer these with their current license.

Crypto ExchangeMaker FeeTaker FeeCurrenciesMinimum deposit USDTrade Limits
OKX0.08%0.10%32010100,000 USDT
CoinMENA0.75%0.75%5210No limits
GCEXNoNo5050,000No Limits
BackPack Exchange0.085%0.095%NANANA
RAIN0.15%0.30%7020No Limits
Matrix0.10%0.20%750,000No Limits
Midchains0%0.40%17NANo limits
NA means not available on their website or other sources of information.

Other crypto exchanges

As for the rest of the crypto exchanges and brokers that serve retail and institutional clients and are licensed in UAE, they are Fuze, BackPack exchange, Toko and Laser Digital. These four were licensed by Dubai’s virtual asset authority, but have yet to populate their websites with clear information on their product offering, fees and other information.

Fuze is preparing to launch and its CEO refrained from sharing information until they do.

As for purely institutional investors they can work with the following crypto exchanges who only deal with institutional customers. These are GCEX where the minimum deposit is $50,000 offering 50 tokens.

According to GCEX Managing Director, Mehtap Onder, the exchange doesn’t charge its clients maker and taker fees but just a trading fee.

Then there is Matrix, who also has a minimum deposit of $50,000 but offers just 7 crypto tokens to trade and invest in.

Interestingly Venomex has no information on its fees and offering, and just states on its website, that it will communicate its fees and charges via a notice.


In conclusion, the UAE definitely now has an array of crypto exchanges and crypto brokers that can offer safe and secure means to trade and invest in crypto tokens. It is left up to customers to choose which one they feel more comfortable with, which one offers competitive fees and which ones offer the crypto assets they want to trade.

Users can choose between local, regional and global exchanges to work with. But the future will bring even more. As VARA recently announced, while the regulator awarded 19 regulated VASP licenses in 2023, with 11 already operational, it will be adding 72 more in the coming months.

This could mean that Binance will soon have a license to operate in UAE, as will ByBit, and among others.

As more crypto exchanges enter the UAE as regulated entities, competition will surely increase and this is always a good thing for clients and users, so be prepared.

Over the past years and despite the continuous banning of crypto in Qatar by the Qatar Central Bank, crypto trading and investing in Qatar is flourishing reflected in various ways. 

The first reflection of the attractiveness of crypto trading in Qatar is the statement made by Qatar’s Ahli bank, at the end of May 2023. The bank warned customers against, trading, buying and selling virtual assets and currencies through accounts and banking services, citing the reasons as being associated with high risks.

Secondly Triple A report in January 2023 put Qatar’s crypto ownership at 0.9 percent of the population, around 24,000 people. Since then it could be the numbers have increased. Just over a year ago CoinMENA had announced that it was serving clients in Qatar. Even Bahrain’s RAIN crypto broker supports Qatar, as does UAE based BitOasis.

But the third and most significant reflection of the growth of crypto in Qatar is the recent MENA FATF report, where they mention that Qatar needs to work more on improving its risk understanding, implementation of TFS ( Targeted Financial Transactions) and NPO (Nonprofit organizations) preventive measures for virtual assets, and virtual asset service providers.

As mentioned in their report, “ Qatar has a very strong level of compliance with the FATF Standards, with only minor improvements needed in relation to risk understanding, implementation of TFS and NPO preventive measures, VAs and VASPs, wire transfers, transparency for legal persons and arrangements and cross-border movements of cash and BNIs.

So while Qatar has embraced blockchaindigital assets, and is studying the possibility of implementing CBDC, while shunning crypto, the population in Qatar seems to be moving forward with the crypto times.

MENA Tarabut Gateway, an open banking platform has partnered with Bahrain’s crypto trading platform RAIN to bring faster, cost effective fiat to crypto transactions to Bahrain users, allowing crypto payments directly from user bank accounts all on RAIN platform.

The new feature will utilize Tarabut Gateway’s open banking payment solutions to facilitate on and off-ramp (fiat-crypto-fiat) transfers for users, dramatically increasing speed and reducing errors associated with traditional bank wire transfers. The introduction of this new feature is in line with Rain’s strategy to provide the most premium and seamless crypto wallet experience for its MENA users. 

Abdulla Almoayed, Founder and CEO of Tarabut Gateway, said, “We’re delighted to unveil a solution that aims to make fiat-to-crypto transfers quicker, more secure, and cost-effective – as well as enable such funding methods directly from bank accounts. Our partnership with Rain is a perfect cross-sector synergy, made possible by Bahrain’s advanced open banking ecosystem. Crypto trading, wallets, and other blockchain use cases are natural allies in opening up traditional banking and finance. We are proud to partner with Rain to provide a user-focused approach to crypto services by bringing the advantages of open banking digital solutions.”

Joseph Dallago, Chief Executive Officer of Rain, added, “Our partnership with Tarabut Gateway unlocks a new era for crypto assets adoption in the region. Through quick and efficient deposit mechanisms, crypto traders on Rain’s platform will now be able to seamlessly fund their accounts and capitalize on market movements. The integration with Tarabut Gateway cements Rain’s premium product offering in the region.”

Bahrain has been at the forefront of crypto payments in the region with examples of EazyPay and BinancePay partnership in Bahrain. 

In January 2023 Binance celebrated its official entrance into Bahrain. Bahrain’s crypto ecosystem has flourished with the entrance of Binance. Bahrain has witnessed a growth on all fronts, crypto exchange users, crypto payments, crypto jobs and competitive crypto offerings. Binance received its official license in October 2022.

Growth of crypto exchange users

The official license and launch of Binance in Bahrain has added to Binance’s crypto exchange users.

Binance announced that it witnessed a 34% growth in institutional business clients in MENA in Q4 2022, the highest growth for a region where Binance operates, Nadeem Ladki, Executive Director Head of BD & Partnerships, Europe & MENA at Binance told LaraontheBlock, “While I cannot go into the specific growth in Bahrain, I can confirm that we have seen a growth in users since we officially launched in October 2022.”

Even Bahrain based CoinMENA; crypto broker also saw an increase in its user base in 2022 including the period since Binance made its foray into the country. Talal Tabaa CEO and Founder of CoinMENA explained to LaraontheBlock, “Year on Year from December 2021 until December 2022, the verified users of CoinMENA from Bahrain grew by 143 percent. In specific since the entrance of Binance in October 2022, CoinMENA witnessed 5.6 percent growth up until January 2023.”

Growth Crypto vis vie Banking services

In addition to the increase in the number of newly on boarded crypto exchange clients, the country has seen more robust competitive marketing campaigns, with lower fees aimed at attracting a bigger user base as well as enhanced banking crypto relationships.

Binance holds a Category 4 license as a crypto asset service provider (CASP) and was the first exchange in the country to be granted a category four license.  This meant that users could access Binance’s full range of crypto asset exchange services, including direct deposits and withdrawals in local currencies.

Yet this did not faze CoinMENA which despite being a crypto broker still espouses good relationships with liquidity partners and banks. Talal Tabbaa, CEO of CoinMENA told LaraontheBlock, “Compared to other regions, the MENA market is one of the smallest. CoinMENA, Rain & BitOasis are technically all brokerage firms. We all have to work with global liquidity partners to place trades on behalf of our users. CoinMENA can list tokens at its own discretion following the Board of Directors’ approval, but they must comply with CBB guidelines.”

After Binance entered Bahrain and in early 2023, CoinMENA announced that users could now easily deposit and withdraw crypto through bank transfers or cards in just 24 hours. CoinMENA CEO explains, “We maintain good banking relationships which is crucial to ensure the on-ramp and off-ramp services are as frictionless as possible for our users.”

RAIN crypto broker which similar to CoinMENA has a category three license in Bahrain has on some occasions compared its offering with Binance. In a tweet by one of its founders AJ Nelson in late October in reply to a comment from a client stated, “Yes we are well aware of the problems with bank transfers. We are working directly with regulators to solve. In good time we will have a solution regarding fees, have you used Rain Pro? It has 0 maker fees and tight spreads. Lower fees and pricing than Binance.”

More Competitive Marketing Campaigns lower fees

In terms of marketing campaigns to introduce better services at lower cost, Binance for its launch campaign offered 25% discount on all trading fees for Bahrain users through a link ‘ BHLive’. 

In addition Binance offered the Binance Bahrain Card allowing Bahrain clients to spend cryptocurrencies in over 60 million online and physical stores. 

Furthermore in December as part of its Christmas offering, Binance offered its Arabic speaking clients’ rewards reaching $1.5 million in addition to promotions. As it noted on its twitter page Binance offers 350+ crypto assets with fees of less than 0.10 percent per transaction. 

CoinMENA quickly countered these marketing campaigns with those of its own. For example in January 2023, CoinMENA offered discounted card deposit fees for 48 hours again after doing so in late 2022.

 As per the advert, users would pay only 2% fee on card deposits instead of 3.5%. For Bahrain’s National Day celebrations, CoinMENA offered zero trading fees for a limited time of 48 hours. The crypto exchange had also promoted prior to that a 23% off on trading fees for a specified time period.

 CoinMENA offers around 30 crypto assets for trading with fees of 0.75%.

 Tabaa confirms that the entrance of Binance helped to grow the crypto ecosystem in Bahrain. He stated, “Binance spends a lot on crypto marketing and this actually benefits the entire ecosystem of players.”

 Growth of Crypto Payments

Crypto as a method of payment has also seen significant growth since the entrance of Binance in Bahrain. Binance partnered with EazyPay, a financial payment service provider which has a network of thousands of merchants and over 6000 terminals, to offer crypto as a method of payment while settling transactions with merchants in fiat currency.

According to Nayef Tawfiq Al Alawi, Managing Director and CEO of EazyPay, “As a regulated entity we can only work with regulated entities such as Binance. Since our partnership merchants have been more confident to get into the crypto payment scene and in terms of transactions, while people are still testing the service on average we transact $5000 worth of crypto transaction per day over 6000 terminals in Bahrain. This is really good.”

It hasn’t stopped there, In November 2022 just after Binance entered Bahrain, CoinMENA partnered with Carlton Real Estate, a Bahrain-based real estate agency that allows investors in the Kingdom to purchase real estate property using crypto assets. Under the partnership, the real estate broker would accept stablecoins like USDT and USDC.

 This only exemplifies the increase in crypto as a method of payment in the country.

Growth in crypto Job market

Binance has viewed Bahrain as a key business hub which will provide areas for growth and employment within the wider industry. Currently Binance has employed 200 people in Bahrain and is continuing to hire. It has job posts for Customer Support Specialist, Senior Treasury Manager and others in Bahrain.

Even RAIN which decreased its employee base by 50% still has around 200 employees while CoinMENA has around16 employees and is also currently hiring with job openings for software engineer in January 2023 as well others.


Changpeng Zhao CZ in a recent tweet  stated, “Bahrain is a hidden gem, super safe, very clean, well developed, good food, superb service, nice people and crypto friendly!”

While CoinMENA affirms that it has known that international players would be entering the region given the poor financial services, high fees and large unbanked population coupled with young demographic population and high smartphone penetration. To him this only shows the market is maturing and accelerating growth.

Binance in 2022, processed a whopping $65 billion in trading volume on average every day, at a speed of approximately 0.7 million transactions per second. The entrance of Binance into markets such as Bahrain has for sure added to the growth of the crypto market and ecosystem.