Coastguards are searching for an experienced Algerian diver who disappeared in the waters who went missing off the Dubai coast, his wife and friends said.

Rana Ghaleb said she was on the boat on Wednesday afternoon when her husband, Adel Ait-Ghezala, went free diving with two other friends, wearing only a wetsuit, flippers, goggles and a specialised watch off 32km the coast.

Ghaleb says her 35-year-old husband did not emerge from the water.

Ait-Ghezala is a PhD student at the American University in Washington DC

Camille Lepre, the assistant vice president for communications at the university said that the institution shares the family's concern.

"The University understands that in these types of situations, it is recommended that a request for assistance in a search be routed through the embassy of the student's home country to the US government," Lepre said.

The couple was visiting Dubai from their home in the US.

A family friend said several boats, divers and a helicopter were involved in the search operation on Thursday.

Source: Agencies