A crackdown on limo drivers in Abu Dhabi – with as many as 50 reportedly being detained over the weekend – is behind the suspension of taxi-hailing apps Uber and Careem in the emirate.

The rivals both suspended service on Saturday without any explanation.

The National quoted a manager of a private limousine company which contracts out for the companies as saying that a number of the firm's drivers were jailed over the weekend.

"One of our drivers was put in jail at the weekend and it’s happened with loads of drivers from other limousine companies as well," the unnamed manager told The National. "There’s a lot of confusion as to why they were arrested. We haven’t been able to see them or speak to them yet."

The paper quoted Careem Vice President Christian Eid as saying his company suspended service due to the lack of available drivers.

"A number of the limousine companies we work with had their drivers stopped, with the result being that the companies decided to go offline on Saturday out of nervousness and lack of clarity," said Eid told The National.

It is unclear why the drivers were detained, however Uber told StepFeed that no drivers were detained while using its app.

While the two companies are popularly known as taxi services, in the UAE they are actually restricted to contracting out rides to licensed private limousine services. The services must follow the rates for limousine services – which are set higher than the official taxi providers.

Both companies have said they are working to clear up the confusion and resume services. Meanwhile, customers are left scrambling to remember how they used taxis before the apps took over.