Which is better: Al Ain or Abu Dhabi?

I received this email today from a subscriber to this site…

I will be arriving in Abu Dhabi next week as a newly hired teacher and we have been told we can plead our case for the city we want to live in. I am unsure if I would prefer Abu Dhabi or Al Ain. I am 50, female, single, very active in that I rock climb, hike, bike. swim, kayak, camp and such. I tend to get heat stroke though. I very much enjoy concerts, lectures and cultural events but am not into the ‘bar scene’ or clubbing. I am outgoing, happy and very excited about this journey.  If you have any advice for me that would be swell. I have enjoyed looking at your web site.

I replied as follows…

I have no easy answer for you.
Here’s a few tips…

Abu Dhabi downsides…

  • very congested
  • your car WILL get dented overnight wherever it’s parked
  • it’s very humid in the summer months: maybe March to September


  • a LOT more going on: music concerts, etc
  • Time Out Abu Dhabi magazine features lots of stuff: see their website and mag: which lists almost no event in Al Ain as so little goes on

Al Ain downsides

  • much quieter
  • far less cultural events: one WOMAD world music festival a year, maybe a few classical music concerts a year, no talks/lectures by book authors etc, very small English libraries, occasional natural history talks and walks

Al Ain upsides…

  • not as congested
  • no humidity: very dry, so you don’t suffer in summer
  • your car won’t get dented
  • I think you can climb at Jebel Hafeet, the nearby mountain maybe not, but Al Ain borders Oman where you can do a lot of climbing

Does that help?
Our sons are 11 and 8. We wouldn’t live in Abu Dhabi if you paid us a ton of money to do so: more expensive schooling, plus the other downsides. We love it here in Al Ain. YOU may much prefer Abu Dhabi.
Do let me know what you decide!
And please publicise my site if you can, via Facebook, Twitter, emails, if you’re in a position to do so.


Choosing where to live

We live in Kuwaitat which is on the east side of the town, behind the Hilton Hotel. We love where we live. We are also close to the Al Ain Mall, the largest Lulu Hypermarket and 10 minutes from the large Bawadi Mall.

Here’s what I recommend, if I may be so bold (and I hope it’s not too much to take in!). Get hold of a map of Al Ain and locate the 3 main hotels which have pools: the Hilton, the Intercontinental, and the Rotana. This way, if you get info on specific villas you can see how far you are away from what may be your frequent weekend activity.

Also locate the main malls: Bawadi Mall is the newest and biggest; Al Jimi Mall (I think!) is the next newest; Al Ain Mall is the oldest (and it’s a great mall) ; plus the enormous Lulu Hypermarket in Kuwaitat, and the smaller Lulu Supermarket in Sanaiya (opposite the Etisalat building which will most likely be on the map). Very recent is the Al Foah Mall in Al Foah, on the road heading out to Dubai.

These are the main places ex-pats in Al Ain shop as each mall has one big supermarket in it, as well as other shops. (There are other, smaller supermarkets like Choithrams, and the new Spinneys supermarket on the road out to Abu Dhabi.) Again you can then get a sense of how far you’ll need to travel to do your main weekly or twice weekly shop.

Al Ain isn’t that big a town (there are 400,000 people at the moment). So you should be able to get round fairly easily.

See other posts for info on specific malls, and photos.