Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two of the most well known cities in the Middle East, but deciding which of them to dedicate a stopover to can be tricky. With Emirates stopping over in Dubai for long-haul flights, and Etihad Airways stopping over in Abu Dhabi, this may be one of your deciding factors in choosing an airline to take you from one side of the world to the other. This side-by-side comparison should give you some food for thought with ideas on what you can see and do in 8-10 hours in each city.
In Between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the differences within
With Nabeel Tanveer
Whichever city you choose, you’ll never be far from a record-setting building. Though Dubai has drawn most attention for record-breaking architectural and engineering projects such as the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Jumeirah and the Burj al Arab, Abu Dhabi has its fair share of cutting edge buildings for you to marvel at on your stopover – including its very own ‘Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi’, the astonishing Capital Gate building.
If you’re into history and culture, Abu Dhabi arguably has a bit more going for it, its Emirates Palace, Al Ain Camel Market, Grand Mosque and assorted museums are more than enough to occupy you on a stopover. That said, Dubai has a cultural side to it too; it’s particularly strong on contemporary art galleries, and the maze-like network of old streets in the Al Fahidi Historic District will give you a taste of what the city was like before the skyscrapers went up.
Abu Dhabi’s major draw in the theme park department is Ferrari World, the biggest theme park in the world, which is also home to the fastest ride in the world, ‘Formula Rossa’. You can find it on the recently developed Yas Island, which also has a water park and plenty of restaurants. Dubai has the Wild Wadi Water Park, which has 30 rides and attractions and is a great option if you’re traveling with kids.
It goes without saying that Dubai is great for shopping, with sleek, air conditioned shopping malls housing every imaginable designer brand. The Dubai Mall is the biggest in the world by total area, also incorporating an aquarium, zoo and ice rink. But Abu Dhabi shouldn’t be overlooked as another great retail destination, as it too boasts world-class shopping with all the big labels.
You can enjoy fantastic views from the observation decks of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – the world’s highest observation deck. If you’re in Abu Dhabi, you could head to Observation Deck at 300 at the Etihad Towers and enjoy a luxurious high tea at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.
Beaches in Dubai are mainly dominated by hotels, which isn’t so great when you’re just passing through rather than staying at one of the luxury hotels, and the best are private. However, there are some good public beaches in Abu Dhabi, thanks to the investment that has gone into the Corniche area in recent years. If you fancy some sunbathing, Abu Dhabi may have the edge for this reason.
If you’re on a budget, Dubai is marginally less expensive than Abu Dhabi. There’s generally also less traffic in Dubai than Abu Dhabi, which can make it easier to get around in the limited time you’ll have available on a stopover. Ultimately, though, both cities have strong merits, and whichever city you choose, you’ll have lots to keep you entertained during your brief sojourn