Oblivious to the geography of the United Arab Emirates, it wasn’t until it was to become my home that I discovered that Dubai is just a one hour drive from Abu Dhabi. It may be misleading to say they’re an hour apart, when the 5-laned E11 highway that links Abu Dhabi to Dubai provides an express route and 140kms speed limit which makes the 120 kilometer distance possible in a one hour period. Not comparable at all to a one hour drive in Ireland which would be Gort to Galway, a mere 41km distance or Clonakilty to Cork, 63kms. The choice to live in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi is a decision that every expat must make before pitching their tent in the U.A.E.
Dubai is home to the massive and impressive Dubai Mall, along with the Burj Khalifa, the only 7 Star Hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab, Mall of the Emirates, the exclusive Jumeriah Beach Residence area and several other jaw-dropping sights. Only in Dubai is a gold dispensing machine plonked in the middle of a mall, treated as par. Along with being the glamorous host for several launches, events and concerts, Dubai has everything to offer for luxurious living. Thus explains the large huge number of expatriates living in Dubai and travelling every day to work in Abu Dhabi, availing of the slightly lower accommodation prices of Dubai in comparison to Abu Dhabi a side effect of over-development in the good times and low occupancy in the economically challenging period at present. The general perception of Dubai is that it’s more suited to the social high flyers and singletons, it is the leading choice when taking a holiday to the Middle East or spending a year out teaching P.E. in the sun, tax-free, it’s also true that Dubai provides the most westernized destination in the UAE coupled with all the good service and novelty of living in the Middle East, it truly is fantastic. `
On the flip side, Abu Dhabi appears to be the city of choice for families. As expat families arrive in the UAE most of the families decided on Abu Dhabi as their locality of choice. Leafier suburbs together with a very accessible city gives Abu Dhabi a more homely feel than Dubai and while the architecture in the city is a lot older, the infrastructure and road network is based on a grid system and is easily negotiable. “An established area that offers no surprises but is unrivalled in its consistency of 5 star luxury across the board, a safe pair of hands for you and your family ”, would be the by-line if Abu Dhabi were for sale. The skyline along the Corniche is studded with famous landmarks, overlooking the fabulously appointed Marian Mall across the water. As the social butterflies of Dubai trail to Abu Dhabi every day to work, somewhere along the E11 Highway they pass by some of the large number of expats living in Abu Dhabi and working in Dubai, allowing their families to enjoy the easy lifestyle of Abu Dhabi while they strive to heady heights of careerdom in Dubai. Alternatively, everyday disheveled looking dads-of-three drive their Nissan Tiida’s from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, while wifey at home has the long wheeled base Pajero so the kids won’t get crushed on the school run in a regular sedan. Bleary eyed from night feeds, he can barely see the bright lights of the two door coupes and special edition Hummers, driven by the high rollers of Dubai coming to the sleepy hollow for the day, with hair gelled and cufflinks shone, bleary eyed from the night before of scoffing sushi and champers in a 6 star somewhere along the Deira Creek, the high rollers don’t notice the diligent family folk and plough past, almost blasting the Tiida’s off the road.
On arrival in the U.A.E. the decision to opt for Dubai or Abu Dhabi was mine. At first the decision looked a no-brainer. I was after I had always fancied myself as a bit of a high roller. It would be all sushi and champers for me. On further analysis and taking the three children and the goldfish into consideration, the cards were on the table, I was surprised to realise that I was no longer the party type, I was Abu Dhabi bound and not alone that but I was the wifey doing the school run. Thankfully the “highway to heaven” is just outside my door, and on my bi-weekly escape from safe, suffocating, suburbia, I hit cruise control, sit back and think, maybe I’ve the best of both worlds!