Why I Liked Abu Dhabi Better Than Dubai

Like everyone (and their mothers) on social media, I took full advantage of the Christmas deal of a lifetime – a fare glitch for a cheap airfare to Abu Dhabi.  I did tons of research before my trip, scoured blogs and websites ensuring I didn’t miss anything while I was there because who knew when I’d ever return…at least at such a cheap rate.

Since Dubai is the most well-known and richest emirates of the United Arab Emirates, we thought it was best to spend the majority of our time there and then spend the remainder of our time in Abu Dhabi.  Big mistake.

Since Etihad Airways offers a free shuttle bus to Dubai – only valid on the day you land in Abu Dhabi – my friends and I decided it was best to head to Dubai first, and then make our way back to Abu Dhabi during the last days of our trip.

I spent my first 3 days in Dubai and the following 2 days in Abu Dhabi. While I didn’t hate Dubai, I almost dare say it’s a place I don’t have to return.  Dubai felt like…the future.  The style of their buildings is called “Neo futuristic.”  It felt like we were in a different world each time we drove on the highways (which there seem to be no shortage of).

The streets were clean and lined with neatly manicured flowers.  It’s home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the world’s only self proclaimed seven star hotel, the Burj al Arab.  The Dubai Mall is one of the world’s largest shopping malls.  It has every store you’d ever want to go into, from Payless to Cartier, an underwater aquarium and even an ice rink. It literally has every thing you’d ever need or want.

During our Big Bus Tour (a great way to see the city, by the way), we learned that the metro was unmanned and they planned on expanding the system for the World Expo happening there in 2020.  The traffic left a little to be desired but isn’t that the case for most big cities?  However, even with all of Dubai’s “World’s Biggest” attractions, I still wanted more.

1. It didn’t feel like there was much culture.

While the city was clean, nice, and neatly manicured, there didn’t appear to be any culture aside from what they wanted us to see.  Since most of the city’s development has happened within the last 20 years, everything is so…new.  I love history and while I did hear a little about Dubai’s history during our Big Bus Tour, I wanted it to immerse myself in another culture and it just didn’t feel like I could do that.

2. I could have been anywhere.

Vegas. Miami. Los Angeles.  You name any big city, I could have been there and not half way across the world in Dubai.  I love exploring and visiting new destinations.  But when visiting new places, I expect for there to be some inherent culture.  It was hard for me to identify Dubai’s.

3. Abu Dhabi was a bit slower.

While Abu Dhabi is the capital UAE, the people were nice (not that they weren’t nice in Dubai, it was just more noticeable in Abu Dhabi), the pace was a little slower and it was more in line with what I expected of the Middle East.  Hey, those are just the facts, people.  I’m just here to deliver them.

Abu Dhabi isn’t as flashy as Dubai, so if you’re expecting a Middle Eastern experience…don’t.  Do yourself a favor and spend a little more time in Abu Dhabi than you planned.  You’ll thank me later, I promise!