UAE, Dubai, Abu Dhabi – Similarities and Differences

2 years ago

UAE, Dubai, Abu Dhabi – Similarities and Differences

About a few weeks ago, I was in a public transport headed home when I overheard two people having an argument just behind me about Dubai being a country. One of them believes that Dubai is a country, and he stood firm to his point while his counterpart thought Dubai is just a city under a country. At least I was able to clear the air when my opinion was sought for, as I have lived in UAE for the last five years. I still wonder why people still get it wrong even until this moment. 

Dubai is not a country, and neither is Abu Dhabi a country. These two places are very popular cities situated under the UAE. The UAE stands for the United Arab Emirates. It is a country situated in the middle east sharing borders with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar.

The UAE is made up of seven states or emirates which are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, and Umm Al Quwain. Dubai is one of the most preferred tourist attractions across the globe. Whereas Abu Dhabi is the largest and wealthiest of the emirates and is also the capital of the UAE.

You should read more about these emirates to get an in-depth knowledge of what they represent. Having established the fact that both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are not countries, you should know more about these cities and what they are unique for, these two cities happen to be the most popular amongst all other Emirates of the UAE, there’s no way you would talk about the UAE without making mention of these two cities, It’s like talking about the honey leaving the bee out of the picture, whereas it is the bee which is behind the honey production. Stay with me as I take you on a tour through these cities.


 This is established to be the capital of the country; it is known to be the second-most populous city in the UAE (after Dubai). Its land area is approximately 972km2 (375 sq mi) with an estimated population of 3.2 million.

 It is the home of the UAE government. The city’s rapid growth and development, alongside the relatively high productivity and income which is due to the massive oil and gas reservoirs, successfully geared its transformation into a large, well-developed city. It accounts for two-thirds of the UAE’s economy.

 The city presents a soothing atmosphere of pleasure and relaxation, projecting a wonderful mixture of tradition with the taste of progression, thereby tracing its rich history way back to around 3000BC. It is a home of great tourist attractions that will leave you yearning for a next opportunity after a first visit.

dubai.jpeg 145.24 KB

Few Dubai Attractions – The tallest building, Aquarium, Amusement Parks, The Frame,Palm Islands.


 Is there any word that can be sufficient to describe a great city which offers both leisure and business opportunity so perfectly? That would have been the perfect word to describe a city like Dubai. A city with a land area of approximately 3,885Km2 (1,500 sq mi) with an approximated population of 3.3 million.

Over the years, Dubai has developed into a global business city and tourism hub. It is popular for its ultramodern architecture, luxury shopping coupled with a vibrant nightlife. It is commonly noted for doing everything to the extreme, as the city is well known with structures that do not have competition in the Asian continent if not in the entire world. These characteristics have made the city a top-notch when it comes to tourism.

I am sure you would want to compare these two cities to know which best suits your lifestyle, I’ll quickly put you through a brief comparison between these two great cities of UAE, make sure to read to the end.


  COST OF LIVING | Cost of living is lower | Cost of living Is Higher
  NIGHT LIFE | Known to be quieter and more peaceful | Known to be very noisy with amazing night fun
  CIVILIZATION | More Traditional | More of western touch
  POPULATION | Approximately 3 million | Approximately 3 million
  POPULARITY | Not as popular compared to Dubai | Very popular in the world

Due to the individual characteristics of these cities, people prefer Abu Dhabi to reside in due to its local cultural traits and peaceful life, while Dubai is highly preferred as a tourist arena for relaxation and fun due to its marvels and busy nightlife.

Abu Dhabi vs Dubai for Tourism

If you are a tourist and must choose between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Dubai wins easily with several world-famous attractions like the tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa, or Palm Islands (two man-made islands in the shape of palm trees), the world’s largest aquarium which is inside one of the world’s largest malls, several amusement parks, and beautiful beaches. Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, is the home to The Louvre, which is the first art and civilization museum, a Ferrari themed amusement park which has the world’s fastest roller coaster (I have tried it. Believe me, it is worth it), the corniche, Warner Bros. World, an indoor amusement park and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque which is the largest mosque in the country with many key architectural elements.

It is a 139 kilometers distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi which you can travel in 1 hour and 20 minutes, thanks to the country’s good roads and traffic habits. You do not have to choose between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Or the other emirates. Having landed in UAE, choose to stay in Dubai which is pretty much in the center. Abu Dhabi on one side and all other emirates on another. You can visit attractions in any of these emirates and return to Dubai on the same day.

Abu Dhabi vs Dubai for Living

  • Abu Dhabi is more subtle and calm by nature which means living here is much more peaceful. Whereas Dubai is the best example of a loud and modern city with an active nightlife.
  • Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest city. Note that most of their wealth is owed to the Oil Economy. Whereas Dubai has an active tourism and trade economy which makes it a hotspot for trade and business.
  • Having more businesses and tourists, Dubai also has more opportunities and a wider variety of opportunities. Employment or starting up, you would have a much better chance in Dubai than in Abu Dhabi.
  • Expat community. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are home for a large number of expats, depending on which country you are from, you are much likely to find your community groups in either of the cities.
  • The cost of living is cheaper in Abu Dhabi compared to Dubai except for rent. Rent is cheaper in Dubai and gets cheaper as you move towards the northern emirates. Dubai also has much more property development happening which gives more options to pick from when it comes to housing. Fuel costs are the same in all emirates of the UAE. As for public transportation Dubai has the Metro, a wide network of buses and taxis making commute affordable. As for Abu Dhabi, the bus network is smaller, and taxis are expensive. Not having a car if you are living far from work is not a very good idea in Abu Dhabi.
  • Laws and regulations in both cities are pretty much the same. Except for some minor fine / penalty differences. Both are bound by the civil/criminal/labor/immigration laws of the UAE. Dubai, however, has more inspections and checkers to enforce these laws. I personally have paid fine twice for jaywalking in Dubai (that hurts! lol) whereas in Abu Dhabi I feel it is a bit more relaxed. 

In Conclusion

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two emirates of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai more popular than Abu Dhabi for its tourist attractions and business opportunities. Abu Dhabi being wealthier, thanks to the oil economy.