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.


6 Comment

  1. A Blankenship says:

    My daughter will be moving to Al Ain for 10 months to teach at a private school…Since you live there, could you be honest–how safe is it for a young, American, Christian girl?? My daughter said that the country is very tolerant…I just hope that’s true…Thoughts??

  2. admin says:

    I think she’ll be safe here. I have been here 3 years and not heard any ‘bad/sad’ stories.
    If you want to correspond more about this, get in touch with me via the contacts page with more detailed questions.

  3. Colette says:

    Hi Chris,
    I am hoping to move shortly to Al Ain and wondered if you could highlight genuine websites for looking at apartments/villas etc where we can see pictures as we have no idea on where to start our search.

  4. admin says:

    Hi Collette,
    Do a google search: there are a number of sites which show photos of apartments and villas in Al Ain, and the kind of prices you will pay.

  5. Catherine says:

    Hi Chris. Great website. My family and I are moving over early next year. Not sure if we will end up in Abu Dhabi or Al ain. Husband coming over earlier to check things out. We are an Australian family. One thing I would love to see on your website as a category is ‘women’. Would love to know what to expect form the Al Ain or UAE more generally about realistic expectations western women should have when moving over there. Particularly things like public displays of affection, veiling, working, treatment in dealings with shops/ public offices/ utilities companies etc. great website either way and thanks. By the way. – great job in the female Olympic rowing!!!!!!!! Thanks Catherine

  6. admin says:

    Hi Catherine,

    That’s a good idea for a post. Thanks! 🙂 Very briefly…

    Avoid holding hands with your husband in public places. A bit of touching in a mall would be fine. To be honest, I’ve not heard of anyone having an issue with holding hands. Some young married Emiratis hold hands while walking round the malls.
    No need for a veil.
    Women are treated very respectfully in shops etc. Often there is a women-only section in the bigger banks. You have a separate waiting area at Oasis Hospital, etc.
    If you walk along a road you may get a car trailing you. If you’re driving you may get followed. I have only heard this happen once in the 3 years I’ve been in Al Ain, so it’s rare.

    I hope that helps!


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