Having not been to Dubai for twelve years, the opportunity to revisit and head to Abu Dhabi for a direct comparison was too good for Rhian in the BI WORLDWIDE Events design team to miss. Here's her report...
Where’s Dubai gone?
I last visited Dubai in 2000 so this really was a comparative trip for me – comparing Dubai & Abu Dhabi and at the same time comparing Dubai in 2012 to the Dubai I knew back at the turn of the millenium. My immediate view is modern day Dubai is incomparable to the Dubai of twelve years ago. Back then it was at the beginning of its rapid development, and everything looked new and shiny. Now, the development still hasn’t stopped and everything seems too overcrowded, busy and chaotic for me. There is no landscape anymore, and while it is very impressive, you can't escape the feeling that everything is man-made and artificial, and any sense of heritage or authenticity has gone. Even in ‘old Dubai’, the souk and around the Creek area, where culture and heritage should be a given, the hustling and plethora of fake handbags slightly ruins the effect.
What is not in doubt however, is just how stunning the hotels are – I found them to be a welcome oasis in the middle of the noise and bustle of the city. This would be the highlight of Dubai for me – the service is impeccable, the interiors breath-taking, and it really was a place of peace in the midst of a city that is overcrowded, constantly under construction and increasingly claustrophobic.
Off to Abu Dhabi and this is where my true oasis moment came. When we arrived in Abu Dhabi – it was a huge sense of relief – no high sky scrapers and a lot more open space which was exactly what was needed after Dubai. Abu Dhabi is built on a series of 200 islands, so wherever you go you are surrounded by white sand and water – the true definition of an oasis?
The Saadiyat is the cultural centre of Abu Dhabi and is aiming to be the top regional luxury destination by 2030. It all looks very impressive and organised so far - it is in the process of building nine five star resorts, along with golf courses and opulent apartments. It is apparent that it doesn’t immediately have as much to offer the incentive traveller, but I would say this is not a bad thing. There is always cultural events going on, and the recently opened Ferrari World is definitely worth a visit and is a very visible statement of intent. You will not be bored - guaranteed.
By way of comparison
In reality, there is no way to compare the two in terms of a preferred incentive travel destination. It would be like comparing apples and pears, and depends so much on what you’re looking for. Dubai has the night life, the shopping and the attractions to ensure you never run out of things to do. I even felt slightly cheated because there just isn’t enough time to do everything. If you weren’t bothered about the landscape of the destination, more about what there is to do, then Dubai would definitely be a better choice. Abu Dhabi is a more memorable experience, because it has the culture and heritage. In a word it is more authentic and arguably a better destination because of this.
Abu Dhabi has, and is, learning from the mistakes Dubai made in its redevelopment, and, as this is where the money is, will probably do it in a more effective and organised manner. It provides a chance to get the incentive traveller away from what they are used to and with its great access and good rates, it is a choice not to be overlooked.
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