This study compared the ability of the Arabic General Health questionnaire (AGHQ) and Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20) to screen ICD-10 psychiatric disorders in an Arab community in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Standardised psychiatric assessments of subjects using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) were carried out. The Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to determine validity indices for the AGHQ and SRQ-20. For the AGHQ, sensitivity, specificity and area under the curve (AUC) were 86, 85 and 93% respectively, while for the SRQ-20, validity indices were 83, 83 and 90% respectively. Overall performance of the AGHQ was significantly better than the SRQ-20, especially in males and those under the age of 30 years. We conclude that both questionnaires are valid screening instruments in an Arab community in the UAE.