The recent purchase of Manchester City football club by Abu Dhabi based property company Hydra Properties has suddenly thrust the emirate and city of Abu Dhabi into the spotlight as attractive destinations along the lines of Dubai.  Some are suggesting that this could now result in increased interest from British based investors and lifestyle seekers who have been priced out of Dubai.

So, Abu Dhabi versus Dubai, is there any competition or are the two emirates a world apart – and why have you heard so much about Dubai and comparatively so little about Abu Dhabi?  What secrets is the latter emirate hiding?

The purchase of Manchester City football club by previously unheard of Abu Dhabi based property company Hydra Properties has certainly awoken the UK to Abu Dhabi full stop.  Many in the UK seemed to previously assume that the only place of any interest in the UAE was Dubai, of course this is certainly not true, it’s just that Dubai has been very successful in marketing itself and also aggressive in terms of winning overseas investment interest.  This has no doubt resulted in the emirate having a hugely successful property market and a reputation as a playground for rich expats in the sun.  But those who now take their time and who look more closely at Abu Dhabi will see a city and an emirate that are both wealthier and potentially have more going for them in terms of long-term investment appeal than Dubai…
In fact, there is more to the UAE as a whole than just Dubai and there are many similarities and also enough striking differences to make everyone sit up and take notice of those emirates now emerging from the shadow of Dubai!  For example, Ras al Khaimah and Ajman can be considered emerging tourism and real estate markets in the region, Dubai is of course far more established in comparison, but then on a business front Dubai could be considered emerging when compared to the very well established international business environment in Abu Dhabi.

In terms of the similarities between the members of the UAE, each of the emirates mentioned above have stunning and luxurious real estate sectors offering buyers and investors the chance to buy some of the world’s most innovative and incredible property.  And looking again at the differences, where many are now quietly suggesting that Dubai’s market is overpriced and due a negative correction, others are confident that the Abu Dhabi market has significant room for positive price growth.  This is based on the fact that when you look at the real price of property in Abu Dhabi city and compare it to say property in Singapore or London, it is much more competitively priced despite the fact that the city is one of the most wealthy in the world – therefore analysts believe there is likely room for price expansion.
In the past Abu Dhabi was a place favoured by property fund managers who like to look to the long-term and at the bigger picture – but now word is slowly spreading about the appeal of Abu Dhabi at the same time as the emirate is embarking upon an ambitious construction period.  Apparently over a trillion United Arab Emirates dirham worth of construction projects are under proposal across the emirate offering a way in for all investors.  And whilst prices are not exactly on a par with Cape Verde in terms of their affordability for example, there are well-priced units in many of the stunning developments across Abu Dhabi…and some buyers are aware that this emirate could offer them a way of tapping into the potential that they missed out on in Dubai.

The one thing that may put off some cautious buyers about the UAE as a whole is the strict legal system in place that a couple of Brits caught allegedly frolicking on the beach in Dubai have fallen foul of.  All we can say in response to this is that without being disrespectful to the people caught up in this rather sensationalised story and without knowing anything specific about the case in question, anyone who travels to another country, especially one known for having very, very strict laws about behaviour and publically acceptable conduct should be sensible enough to rein in their less than acceptable actions and deeds!  The likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are among the most liberal in the list of GCC countries, and yet they have rules and laws just as we do in the UK.  Surely anyone in their right mind who travels anywhere abroad takes at least a moment to think about and perhaps even research what kind of behaviour is and isn’t acceptable, in other words, it seems ludicrous to think that the majority of clear thinking, sober, would-be investors will be put off investing in the Middle East because of the fact that they have different laws, customs and ways of dealing with criminals.

Finally and in conclusion, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are hugely similar in the kind of lifestyle that they afford their residents and citizens, yet the former is now considered by some to be a sort of gross caricature or misrepresentation of what Dubai should be – what with its wall to wall cranes, 24 hour construction sites, ridiculous real estate and rental prices.  Perhaps then Abu Dhabi with its slower and more steady entry onto the scene as the next great thing in the Middle East for lifestyle seekers, expats and property investors means that it will learn from Dubai’s mistakes and prevent itself from making the same ones?  In which case, Abu Dhabi could be a far more attractive prospect on all levels than Dubai can now ever be.