TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is heading up a 100-strong trade mission to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region with a range of Irish business owners and executives.
Mr Kenny has started the mission with meetings in the Saudi capital of Riyadh today and Monday.
More than 80 Irish companies, from sectors like education, agriculture, construction and engineering, are also travelling.
Mr Kenny will attend a series of political and business meetings up to January 9, including with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman, Qatari leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamd al Thani and Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum.
The government delegation will also meet with members of the Irish community in the region.
Speaking ahead of the trip Mr Kenny said the visit would strengthen "our economic, political and cultural ties with these key priority markets for Ireland".
The aim of the visit is to improve trade links with the region, in particular for Irish firms looking to export services to the oil-rich region; including financial services and software, aviation, education, telecommunications, agrifood and construction.
Big budget schemes, including the World Cup tournament which will be held in Qatar in 2022, are expected to be big drivers of increased demand from the Gulf region.