Both cities gained a lot of popularity in the last decade, and definitely not only to work. Nowadays these world cities are popular with travelers from all over the world and loads of expats. Despite the extreme heat and the humidity during the summer months, people free-willingly want to settle down here and students from all over the world come to study at one of the many universities. Although I flew into Abu Dhabi airport several times, I never really took the opportunity to explore the city.
Comparing two cosmopolitan travel hubs in the Middle East
This time I felt like I had to give Abu Dhabi a chance, despite all the boring reviews about the city. It was mostly the unknown what drew me to Abu Dhabi this time and on top of that I finally wanted to see the incredible Grand Mosque with my own eyes. Dubai is only a one hour cab ride away and will set you back about $60 - $80, whether you take an official taxi or not. The unofficial taxis are completely safe by the way, although obviously not promoted by local authorities!
Even if it is only the Grand Mosque that is pulling you towards Abu Dhabi then definitely go for it! This fabulous piece of architectural highlight is one of the most incredible buildings I have ever visited. The spotless white construction in contrast with the bright blue sky makes it also a picture perfect attraction. Although its the hottest time of the day, try to go after lunch as it is not that busy. There are many place to hide from the fierce sun and the incredible interior design must definitely not be missed either. Take off your shoes and take in the tremendously designed hall, where the air condition will probably be a warm welcome!
Try to hang around at the complex and wait for the sun to start setting. The sunset will change the invasion of the sunlight, which puts the mosque in a different perspective. Even for inexperienced photographers it is quite hard to not shoot some cool pictures at this place! On top of all this pampering this tourist attraction is completely free!
Dress appropriately or bring your passport to borrow a local outfit from the tourist information center, also free of charge.
Apart from the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi never really excited me. May be I did not put in that much effort, but I was never really bothered to do so. Unfortunately I did never get the homey feeling Dubai constantly gives me. All places of interest are far away from each other and the places to bring people together like restaurants and bars seemed to be quite empty. Of course this city also has its centers of interest but in my opinion they can not weigh up against JBR, the Dubai Marina or Downtown Dubai. Where both cities claim to be vibrant and bustling, in my opinion only Dubai can be given that credit.
Cruising on Sheikh Zayed Road gives you a constant feeling of being in a metropolis with all its skyscrapers lined up along the this highway. Driving North you will stare right into Downtown Dubai, driving South your view will be spoiled with the massive towers of the Marina and then we simply forget about Burj Al Arab and Palm Jumeirah.
In fact it is not really fair to compare both cities. Bustling Dubai with all its events, opportunities and expats is way more cosmopolitan, then its more local neighbour Abu Dhabi. It feels a bit like comparing Los Angeles with the Las Vegas’ strip!
For visiting the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi there are local air-conditioned buses including free wifi that run every hour for as less as $7 one way from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and vice-versa. For Etihad costumers there is even a free bus connecting Abu Dhabi with Dubai!
Enjoy the United Arabic Emirates!