Tia Takes The World

Abu Dhabi is NOT Dubai


With all of her beauty, charm, and elegance, Cinderella could never gain respect from her sisters or attention from those around her. Often times misrepresented as the ugly duckling and passed over as if she didn’t exist, Cinderella tirelessly worked to beautify all that she touched. Until one day, she was finally given her due and appreciated by all who laid eyes on her. Cinderella is Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is Cinderella. Abu Dhabi is NOT Dubai

As an expat of 4 years, I cannot tell you the amount of times friends have asked me how is it living in Dubai? Or I hear my family telling folks “Yeah my cousin lives in Dubai.” Normally, I let it slide, but after 4 years of living abroad, I would THINK that people would know the difference by now. But humans are going to human every time. In an effort to educate and stop y’all from inevitable embarrassment, I created a quick mini-lesson of why Abu Dhabi is NOT Dubai.

[bctt tweet=”If someone asks me “How is it living in Dubai?” ONE MORE TIME, I may have a conniption fit!” username=”@whatsnexttia”]

Abu Dhabi is NOT Dubai


Let’s begin with the obvious: Abu Dhabi and Dubai are not the same. Their main similarity is that they both are Emirates (something like states). And, they are both located in the United Arab Emirates. That’s about it!

It’s actually funny that Abu Dhabi is mostly mistaken for Dubai when Abu Dhabi is, in fact, the capital of the UAE and the largest emirate of seven in the country.

Following the fact that Abu Dhabi beats Dubai in size, let’s talk about the fact that Dubai is an entirely different emirate which is about an hour and a half away from Abu Dhabi city center. I often refer to the distance that it used to take me to get from my college town of Greensboro, North Carolina to my hometown near Charlotte, North Carolina as a reference for the time it takes me to travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. You could even compare it to the time it takes a New Yorker to get out of traffic during rush hour 😂but I digress…


If you ever visit you will notice the vast difference in pace. AD is the graduated cousin of the 2 while Dubai is the college undergrad, looking to top any and every experience more than the last.


Abu Dhabi is traditional where Dubai is more westernized. You can easily find a good time in either of the Emirates. Dubai however has taken the title of the “Vegas of the Middle East” to another level. From poppin’ pool parties to the late night party scenes, Dubai doesn’t cease to show its visitors a good time. Now, Abu Dhabi doesn’t come up short with its own version of a good time but Dubai wins the award if we are comparing.


Coming from a self-proclaimed “veteran teacher,” I personally consider Dubai as the “Land of private schools”. Dubai operates the most private schools in the Emirates with 207 schools (90% of the school education) and only 48 public schools. Dubai School Stats. While Abu Dhabi operates with 192 private schools and 250 public across 3 regions. Abu Dhabi School Stats.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me run it down. There are two different branches of schools that students can attend and teachers can work at in the UAE. Government and private. Government schools are:

“Working hard to promote the Emirati Educational system to build a knowledge-based society while enriching citizenship values. Their values include a strengthening of national identity and social responsibilities, reinforcement of human values and a commitment to professionalism and transparency.” -Teachaway recruitment group.

While private schools are:

“Elite education organizations.” – Teachaway recruitment group.

Private schools serve the purpose of offering an education based on their selected countries curriculum. Private schools also have the authority to offer languages, beliefs, and specializations based on the owners of their schools rather than following the guidelines set by government school entities.

Essentially government schools run off of criteria set by the government while private schools have the authority to operate based off of their owners while adhering to the rules of the UAE government.


Due to its vast oil resources, Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest emirate in the UAE. In fact, it is one of the richest cities in the world! Lot’s of people get confused by Dubai’s flashiness and nickname, “The City of Gold”. In all actuality Abu Dhabi had to bail Dubai out of debt in recent years Abu Dhabi pays Dubai’s debt.

Don’t get it twisted, although they have gone through financial issues, Dubai is booming and has been ranked as the best city globally

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes I want to shake people and say Abu Dhabi is different than Dubai!” username=”@whatsnextTia”]


Ranked as one of the safest countries in the world, the UAE has some amazing places to visit outside of the popularized locations.  Nevertheless, the fact remains and that Dubai is not the only place in the UAE that should be given credit. Do yourself a huge favor and research the seven emirates. You are bound to find some really cool things in each and every one. You never know, you may just see someone you know taking over them all very soon.

Abu Dhabi is NOT Dubai
Have you ever visited Abu Dhabi or Dubai? Did you know that they are different places? Is the UAE on your radar as a place to visit?
Check out my article Most Instagrammable Places (UAE Road Trip) to discover about the other Emirates in the UAE.
Until next time,
Take The World!

12 thoughts on “Abu Dhabi is NOT Dubai

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this LESSON!! LOL Honestly, it was very entertaining and informative. I learned a lot that I didn’t know about Abu Dhabi.

    1. Thanks Lavonta! I’m glad you learned a little something something and were entertained in the process. Keep coming back for the latest in travel.

  2. Yes indeed. I used to think they were pretty much the same same. Perfect analogy!! Abu Dhabi is grad school, Dubai undergrad. But don’t get it twisted, grad school gets to the business too.

    1. Lol, right! People often look at Dubai as the only city in the UAE. I’ve even heard Dubai referred to as a country lol.

  3. These are good points! As someone who has lived in both cities, I see the merits of both and in my opinion- they cannot be compared. They are simply in 2 different leagues and appeal to different kinds of people. Which is why I always find it amusing when they are thought to be 1 and the same. While Abu Dhabi will always have my heart, after a year in Dubai I can tell you that I would never move back! There is something special in Dubai that Abu Dhabi lacks… its hard to explain if you don’t live here but it goes beyond the glitzy buildings & traffic… its the fact that you are in 1 of the most awe inspiring cities in the world where anything is possible. FYI: I used to despise Dubai before I moved here but now I embrace it!! Anyway I loved this post!

    1. Really!!? You love Dubai that much? I don’t think I could ever live in Dubai. It’s way too fast for me. But, I also haven’t lived there so I won’t completely knock it without trying it. You obviously felt the same sentiments that I have. I just love Dubai for a weekend but couldn’t imagine the hustle and bustle of everyday life there. It’s like New York City to me…just way too much.

  4. Been to Dubai twice. The first time was in my honeymoon before it was the “it” city that everyone goes to and the 2nd time was just last year and even though it’s changed a lot in a small amount of time there is just something that I love about it. Never been to AD even though it’s been on my list for a while. After living in the slow paced Middle East (Kuwait) The UAE in general seems a bit fast for me. While I know teaching is lucrative I think I would be too tempted to spend all my coins lol.
    Thanks for the article

    1. The temptations of spending coins are definitely there. There are so many things you can do that aren’t accessible back home (for me anyway) but it’s worth it for the most part. You definitely should visit AD it’s the slower paced of the two.

  5. Thank you for the comparison. My family is considering a move to Adu Dhabi or Ruwais from Charlotte, NC. Whats the best way to learn about the high schools? Websites don’t give the full picture.

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