Understanding Abu Dhabi Postal Codes: The Onwani System

Everything You Need to Know about the Onwani System

In the modern era of fast-paced communication and efficient logistics, the significance of postal codes cannot be overstated. This rings particularly true for the dynamic city of Abu Dhabi, a bustling metropolis at the heart of the United Arab Emirates.

Previously, all over the UAE, a centralized Makani numbering system was used to identify a building on the maps. It is still used in most parts of the UAE, including Dubai, along with P.O. Boxes for mail delivery.

However, Abu Dhabi has recently announced a new Onwani System. This system relies on its unique postal code system to ensure the accurate and prompt delivery of mail and packages. These codes might seem arbitrary at first, but they are more than just numbers.

They represent a well-structured geographical hierarchy that facilitates the organization of neighborhoods, streets, and buildings. From Al Reem Island to Yas Island, each locality is meticulously identified by these digits. They enable postal workers and couriers to navigate the city with precision.

By understanding the logic behind these codes, residents, businesses, and visitors can optimize their postal experience. It helps in ensuring that letters and parcels reach their intended destinations seamlessly.

Understanding the Onwani System in Abu Dhabi

The Onwani system is a comprehensive addressing and location system introduced by the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) in the UAE. For official notice, visit here.

The word “Onwani” itself means “My Address” in Arabic, reflecting the system’s goal of providing accurate and standardized addresses for all properties and locations within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The Onwani system was developed to overcome challenges related to addressing and location identification, which were particularly important given the rapid urbanization and development in the UAE. It aimed to replace the traditional addressing methods, which often relied on landmarks and descriptive directions, with a modern and structured approach.

Key Features Of The Onwani System

Standardized Addresses: The system assigns a unique, structured address to every property in Abu Dhabi, consisting of a series of codes and numbers that accurately identify the building, street, and area.

Digital Mapping: It integrates with digital mapping and navigation systems, making it easier for residents, businesses, and emergency services to locate specific addresses.

Efficiency: The system enhances the accuracy and efficiency of mail and package delivery services, as well as navigation for drivers and pedestrians.

Government Services: Onwani addresses are often required for various government-related transactions, including obtaining permits, licenses, and utility connections.

Urban Planning: The system aids urban planning and infrastructure development by providing accurate data on property locations and population distribution.

Integration: This system can be integrated into various digital platforms and applications, improving overall accessibility and usability.

In essence, the Onwani system represents Abu Dhabi’s commitment to modernizing its addressing and location identification processes in line with its broader goals of urban development and smart city initiatives.

Abu Dhabi Onwani System vs Makani Numbering System

Abu Dhabi and Dubai each employ distinct methods for managing mail and location identification. Abu Dhabi utilizes a detailed postal code system, while Dubai relies on Makani Numbering and a P.O. Box system for mail delivery.

Onwani System in Abu Dhabi

Image source: https://pages.dmt.gov.ae/en/onwani

The Onwani System assigns unique postal codes to locations in Abu Dhabi, streamlining mail delivery and enabling accurate navigation. Each area is assigned a specific code, making it easier for postal services to deliver mail promptly.

Additionally, emergency services can respond faster to incidents. This system enhances the efficiency of locating destinations within Abu Dhabi and ensures accurate mapping.

Makani Numbering System in Dubai

Dubai’s Makani Numbering System involves using a 10-digit code to pinpoint precise locations. This system divides Dubai into smaller grids and assigns each building a unique identifier. These codes are easy to use for navigation and finding addresses.

Residents, visitors, and delivery services can input the Makani code into navigation apps to reach their destinations without confusion. It’s especially beneficial in areas where traditional addresses might not be as clear.

Dubai’s P.O. Box System: Centralized Mail Collection

In contrast, Dubai employs a P.O. Box system. Residents and businesses have assigned P.O. Box numbers where their mail is centralized and collected. This approach simplifies mail delivery by consolidating addresses, but it lacks the same level of location granularity as Abu Dhabi’s postal code system. While efficient for mail collection, it might be less precise for pinpointing exact locations.

In summary, Abu Dhabi’s postal code system offers a highly detailed and hierarchical approach to location identification, ideal for a dynamic urban environment. On the other hand, Dubai’s Makani Numbering and P.O. Box system doesn’t provide the same level of precision for location-based services. Both systems reflect each city’s distinct approach to managing the complexities of modern mail delivery.

Get A Complete List of Abu Dhabi Postal Codes Here.

What to write if Zip/Postal Code is Not Applicable?

The recent introduction of the Onwani postal codes in Abu Dhabi marks a shift towards a more comprehensive and detailed addressing system. This transformation is a response to the evolving urban landscape owing to the numerous jaw-dropping places to visit in Abu Dhabi and its growing demand for efficient mail and logistics services.

However, it takes time for new systems to fully integrate and for everyone to become accustomed to them. Some instances may arise where postal codes are not applicable or not yet widely recognized by all recipients.

In such cases, it remains crucial to provide accurate and clear address details to ensure that mail and packages reach their intended destinations without complications or delays.

When the use of postal codes is not feasible, consider the following approach to maintain the effectiveness of your addressing. In such cases, you can use alternative methods to provide sufficient information:

Explain the Lack of Code

Clearly state that a ZIP/postal code does not apply to your address. For instance, you can add a note like “No ZIP/Postal Code” or “Not Applicable” next to the address field. In some cases, people also use “000000” to indicate the lack of a zip code.

Provide Detailed Address

Offer as much detail as possible about your location. Include accurate information about the street, building name or number, locality, city, and any additional landmarks that can help postal workers identify the destination.

Use Landmarks

If your area is well-known for specific landmarks, include them in the address. This can guide mail carriers to your location effectively.

Contact Information

Include a reliable contact number or email address in case the postal service needs further clarification about the delivery.

Use Neighboring Codes

If applicable, you can use the ZIP/postal code of a nearby area to provide a general reference for routing the mail.

Follow Local Norms

In some regions where ZIP/postal codes are not widely used, following local addressing conventions might suffice.

Abu Dhabi’s Alternate Addressing: The P.O. Box System

Abu Dhabi’s addressing system has undergone notable transformations, particularly in the absence of conventional postal codes until recently. Before the introduction of postal codes, Abu Dhabi relied heavily on the P.O. Box system as a primary method for receiving mail and parcels.

P.O. Boxes were especially relevant in a region where rapid urban expansion and changing landscapes posed challenges to traditional addressing methods.

What Are P.O. Boxes?

P.O. Boxes are secure compartments located at post offices or mail centers. Instead of specifying a detailed street address, individuals and businesses provide their unique P.O. Box number as an added part of their address. This streamlined approach allowed for efficient mail collection, as the recipient can retrieve their mail from their designated P.O. Box at their convenience.

Using P.O. Boxes

To utilize a P.O. Box effectively, one needs to:

  1. Register: Individuals and businesses need to register for a P.O. Box service at a designated post office. They receive a unique box number linked to their name.
  2. Provide the P.O. Box Number: When receiving mail, the sender would use the recipient’s P.O. Box number as part of the address. For example, “John Doe, P.O. Box 12345, Abu Dhabi, UAE.”
  3. Collecting Mail: Recipients would visit the post office to collect their mail. Most post offices offer 24/7 access to P.O. Boxes for convenience.

Obtaining a P.O. Box in Abu Dhabi

Acquiring a P.O. Box (Post Office Box) in Abu Dhabi is a very simple and straightforward process that offers a secure and convenient way to receive mail and packages. Here’s how you can get one:

Step 1: Choose the Nearest Post Office

Select a post office that is convenient for you. Abu Dhabi has several post office branches across the city where you can apply for a P.O. Box service. Determine the branch nearest to your residence or workplace.

Step 2: Gather Required Documents

Prepare the necessary documents before heading to the post office. You will typically need:

  • Valid ID: Bring a valid Emirates ID for residents or a valid passport with a valid residency visa for expatriates.
  • Proof of Address: Carry a utility bill or any official document that verifies your address in Abu Dhabi.

Step 3: Visit the Post Office

Visit the chosen post office during its working hours with all the needed documents. Be prepared for possible queues, especially during peak times.

Step 4: Request the P.O. Box

At the post office, inquire about the availability of P.O. Boxes. Staff will guide you through the process and provide you with an application form to fill out.

Step 5: Fill Out the Application Form

Complete the application form with accurate information. This form will typically ask for your personal details, contact information, and preferred box size if applicable.

Step 6: Provide Necessary Documents

Submit your completed application form along with the required documents – your valid ID and proof of address. The staff will review the documents for verification.

Step 7: Choose Box Size and Duration

Select the size of the P.O. Box that suits your needs. P.O. Box sizes may vary, and the cost can depend on the size you choose. Additionally, determine the duration for which you wish to rent the P.O. Box – options may include six months or a year.

Step 8: Pay Fees

Pay the applicable fees for the P.O. Box service. The fee will depend on factors such as the box size and rental duration.

Step 9: Collect Your P.O. Box Key

After completing the paperwork and payment, you will receive a P.O. Box key or access card. This key will allow you to access your designated P.O. Box at the post office.

Step 10: Start Using Your P.O. Box

Once you have your P.O. Box key, you can start using your P.O. Box for receiving mail and packages. Remember to regularly check your box for new deliveries.

Verification & Approval

The verification and approval process aims to safeguard the integrity of the P.O. Box service and ensure that only valid applicants receive access to this secure mail management solution. It typically takes a few days for the process to be completed, but the exact duration may vary based on factors like the volume of applications and the efficiency of the post office’s verification procedures.

Here’s a concise overview of the process:

Document Submission

After submitting your P.O. Box application along with the required documents, such as a valid Emirates ID (for residents) or a valid passport with a valid residency visa (for expatriates), the post office initiates the verification and approval process.

Application Review

Post office staff will then review the provided application form and supporting documents. They’ll ensure that all information is accurate, complete, and in line with the required guidelines.

Address Confirmation

The post office confirms the provided address details to ensure they match the information provided in the application. This step is crucial for accurate mail delivery.

Document Verification

The submitted identification documents are verified to authenticate the applicant’s identity and residency status in Abu Dhabi.

Accuracy Check

The post office verifies that all details, such as the applicant’s name, contact information, and any additional information, match the records accurately.

Background Process

Depending on the post office’s internal procedures, there might be a background verification process to ensure compliance with regulations.

Confirmation and Approval

Once the post office is satisfied with the accuracy and authenticity of the provided information, the application is approved. The applicant will be notified of the approval, usually through official communication methods like email or SMS.

Collecting the Assigned P.O. Box Details

The approval notification will provide instructions on collecting the assigned P.O. Box details, including the box number and location within the post office.

Visit the Post Office

Following the approval notification, the applicant should visit the designated post office during its operational hours to collect the P.O. Box details.

Renewing and Cancellation of Your P.O. Box:

Renewal Process

P.O. Box rental typically has a fixed duration, usually six months or a year. Before your rental period expires, visit the post office to renew your P.O. Box. This involves paying the applicable renewal fee and updating any necessary information.

Renewal Reminder

Some post offices may send renewal reminders via email or SMS. However, it’s wise to keep track of your rental period to ensure timely renewal.

Cancellation Process

If you no longer require the P.O. Box service, visit the post office to initiate the cancellation process. You may need to complete a cancellation form and return your P.O. Box key or access card.

Unused Period Refunds

Some post offices may offer refunds for any unused portion of your P.O. Box rental period upon cancellation. It’s advisable to inquire about this policy during the cancellation process.


The evolution in Abu Dhabi’s addressing systems shows the commitment of the emirate to modernizing its infrastructure and embracing technological advancements. It helps in navigating the intricacies of the system with ease, ensuring that you reach your intended destinations promptly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers now related to postal codes here

What is a UAE P.O. Box number?

A UAE P.O. Box number is a safe space at a post office or mail center. Instead of giving a full street address, people and businesses can use their P.O. Box number in their address. This makes getting mail easier and safer.

Are zip codes and postal codes different?

While the terms “zip codes” and “postal codes” are often used interchangeably, they refer to the same concept: numerical codes assigned to specific geographic areas to facilitate efficient mail and package delivery. The terminology can differ based on the country. In the United States, the term “ZIP code” is commonly used, while “postal code” is the more global term. In the UAE, the term “postal code” is typically used.

My address does not support a zip code; can I leave it blank?

If your address does not have a zip code or postal code, it’s important to provide alternative information to ensure accurate mail delivery. Offer a comprehensive address with detailed street information, building or unit numbers, neighborhood names, and city names. Additionally, including landmarks or recognizable points near your location can assist mail carriers in finding the right destination.