First, The UAE are paradise for shopping. There are quite a few people in the former USSR that make shopping tours there and sell the stuff back at home.
Second, safety restrictions for aircraft in the UAE are much lower than in other parts of the world. For example, the Antonov An-8 was in 1997 declared no longer airworthy by Antonov Design Bureau. This means they could no longer fly with a registration of a former soviet country. However, it was no problem to have them registered in countries like Liberia and have them based in the UAE. The aircraft officials in the country of registration didn't bother much, and at the airports, the aircraft wouldn't be checked for safety either. You could still operate them and have them based at an airport where they would get enough cargo. This is an ideal situation for operating old freighters. Only now the An-8s are being withdrawn from use.