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Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai

It’s traditional versus modern as we pit Abu Dhabi against young upstart Dubai. Time for the two giants of the UAE to go head to head in the ultimate showdown (sort of).

 
Economy
 

Might as well cut straight to the chase. Abu Dhabi is a force to be reckoned with by any of the world’s capitals; it holds almost 10 percent of the world’s proven oil supply and almost 5 percent of natural gas. The average net worth for Abu Dhabi citizens is $17 million, and the city has investments of $1 trillion around the world. When Dubai got into trouble, it was Abu Dhabi’s cash that bailed it out.

Editor's Score 1

Comparatively, some might be tempted to label Dubai an economic basket case. The Emirate and city became bloated on real estate and rapid growth, creating a bubble that almost destroyed it. When the external debts of a range of Dubai companies were unveiled (some $80 billion) it sent the world into a panic. And in its darkest hour, where did Dubai turn? To its deep-pocketed neighbor Abu Dhabi, of course.

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But economic might of a place doesn’t necessarily extend to every individual. If it did, Kipp would have pedaled its trike down to Abu Dhabi long ago. Instead, inhabitants have to fend for themselves, and in Abu Dhabi, we’re afraid that is a more expensive business. Thanks to high demand and low supply rental prices remain very high, and that tips the balance against Dubai. In the recent Mercer Cost of Living survey, Abu Dhabi was named number 50.

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Dubai wins this one, but let’s not kid ourselves that it’s a haven of affordability. In fact, until the real estate bubble burst Dubai had the same price problem as Abu Dhabi, and the legacy of those days still remains to some extent. Rental prices may have dropped, but they still rival some of the most expensive places in the world. A win, but only just. In the survey mentioned opposite, Dubai was number 55.

Editor's Score 1
 
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The question here is: how do you measure entertainment? For Abu Dhabi, the most positive way to look at it would be through events. The city has become known in the region for its recent major music concerts (including the Killers, Coldplay and Aerosmith, to name just a few) while sport events are also a major draw. Its own Formula One track plus race, the FIFA World Club Cup; things are genuinely happening for Abu Dhabi.

Editor's Score 1

But if you’re after fun and entertainment week in and week out, then Dubai must surely edge it. For bars, restaurants and nightclubs it leaves the UAE capital standing, while it’s also no stranger to the odd sporting event, especially if we’re talking golf, tennis or horse racing. Plus it’s also managed to nab a few big name music acts, like Elton John and Sting. Draw.

Editor's Score 1
 
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Beaches
 

Once upon a time, Dubai might have grabbed this category, but not anymore. With recent significant investment into and development of the Corniche area, Abu Dhabi has made massive strides in terms of public beaches (we’ll leave private beaches for another day). The new look Corniche has been a huge success, and has revolutionized beach going in the capital. Compared to the Dubai public beaches, it’s a no contest.

Editor's Score 1

Dubai has plenty to offer in terms of beaches, but mainly for people who can afford to go private. Hotels dominate ownership of much of the original coastline, while the new beaches (on the palm, mostly) are the preserve of apartments and villas. The limited public or free beaches leave a lot to be desired up against Abu Dhabi’s fabulous Corniche.

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How on earth can Kipp measure that? Well, easy, we get someone else to. The folks at Mercer (behing the Cost of Living survey referenced earlier) also create a Quality of Living Index for major cities. And this year they place Abu Dhabi at 83rd in the list. Could be worse, we guess.

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But not good enough. Dubai edged out the capital by grabbing 75th in the same index. The index took into account aspects like political and economic stability, and socio-cultural environment. And it seems Dubai delivers the goods, at least when compared to Abu Dhabi.

Editor's Score 1
 
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OK so it’s a bit intangible, but if you know Kipp you know that doesn’t bother us. So, in the global scheme of things, who has the better reputation, Dubai or Abu Dhabi? And that’s an easy one to answer. Abu Dhabi, with its more soft spoken, considered approach to development – and its piles of cash – has managed to avoid much of the negative press that its neighbor has suffered.

Editor's Score 1

And boy, has Dubai suffered. It has been put to the sword by just about every media outlet on the planet thanks to the financial difficulties of some of its companies, and its very conspicuous struggle in the global slowdown. When you attract as much attention to yourself as Dubai did during the boom, you have to be prepared for the attention when it all comes crashing down, as they found out the hard way.

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Traffic
 

A case of saving the worst until last for Abu Dhabi, we’re afraid. Traffic in the city is nothing short of a nightmare, with daily chaos thanks to various major developments and a system that just doesn’t seem to work. One tiny error or accident and the entire network grinds to a halt, as is demonstrated far too often. Dubai’s not great, but this is a disaster.

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There was an odd side effect to Dubai’s financial hardships. People left the city, or lost their jobs, and traffic got better. Much better, in fact. In a city where practically everyone has a car it’s not perfect by any means, but compared to pre-crisis levels it’s a dream. Add to that gradually completed road projects, and it’s an easy win.

Editor's Score 1
 
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Editor's Score 4

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Each has merits, but we couldn't pick between tham. Can you?

 

5 Comments

  1. Tony Saliba on July 27, 2010 7:02 am

    Quality of life in Dubai is non-comparable to any city in the Middle East . We are talking infrastructure , social and entertainment , diversity , comfort and choice of living quarters , etc..

     
  2. Andrew on July 27, 2010 12:16 pm

    The quality of the residents is similarly incomparable; they give me the boke.

     
  3. Miss Anne Thropic on July 27, 2010 2:23 pm

    It’s much of a muchness really. In both cities, I’ve encountered bad driving, thieving landlords, dishonourable real estate staff, sexual harassment outside mosques, rampant hypocrisy, idiotic police officers, insane court decisions, bureaucratic idiots, a lack of a proper addressing system, egomaniacs, a breathtaking sense of entitlement, laziness and simple tasks, like getting a leak fixed, taking way longer and being far more complicated than it should be…

     
  4. Tony Saliba on September 2, 2010 12:37 pm

    Nothing and no city compares to the quality of life in dubai .

     
  5. George Ninan on November 7, 2010 4:13 pm

    With the drop in housing rentals, Dubai has become a perfect haven for people who like to enjoy luxury at affordable prices.

     

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