Dubai and Abu Dhabi Emerge as the Top Cities in the Middle East
December 5th, 2016, Bridget Gleeson

Dubai and Abu Dhabi Emerge as the Top Cities in the Middle East

In a new survey by YouGov for titled ‘Top Cities in the Middle East and North Africa’, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi ranked the highest for cities to live in. The ranking was based on several factors including economic, environmental, standard of living, socio-cultural, and entrepreneurship factors. The survey determined that the top 10 cities in the MENA are: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Eastern Province, Doha, Riyadh, Marrakech, Rabat, Jeddah, and Kuwait City.

Moreover, most MENA respondents ranked their cities favorably. Out of 16 cities across the region, a majority of respondents in eight cities claim that they are happy about their current city of residence across all factors.

Economic Factors

Of the key economic elements addressed in this study, three quarters (75%) of respondents believe that availability of jobs is the most important factor. Affordable housing (72%), followed by reasonably-priced day to day necessities (70%) and career growth (70%) were also of high- importance to respondents. Based on residents’ scoring, Abu Dhabi and Dubai ranked the highest in the region in terms of economic factors.

Health insurance and social security systems (78%) are considered the most important labor rights for respondents in the MENA region. These are followed by wage protection (69%), end of service benefits (68%), and termination rights (68%). Abu Dhabi and Dubai score best in terms of labor rights.

MENA respondents’ priorities for their city’s standard of living revolve around safety, education, and healthcare. Feeling of stability and security (84%), quality of education (81%), availability of healthcare facilities (81%), and quality of available healthcare facilities (80%) emerge as the most important standard of living factors. Dubai and Abu Dhabi also pulled ahead of the rest of the region for standard of living factors.

Socio-cultural Factors

These factors are the forces within cultures, societies, and cities that affect the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the individuals who are part of them. In the MENA region, the most important socio-cultural factors are low crime rate (81%) and effective law enforcement (77%). Yet again, Abu Dhabi and Dubai perform best in this aspect.

Respondents felt less passionately about sports, arts, culture and recreation factors, and proportionally more respondents ranked them as “somewhat important”. Availability of natural areas/landscapes (53%) was the most important factor in this category, followed by availability of family-friendly activities (47%), availability of outdoor/sports activities (46%), and availability of relaxation options (46%). The Highest in this category were Dubai, Marrakech, Muscat, and Abu Dhabi.

Inhabitants of MENA cities value environmental factors relating to cleanliness above all, with clean water (83%), clean air (74%), and clean streets (69%) ranking as the most important survey factors. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Muscat took the top spots in terms of environmental factors.

Entrepreneurship Factors

Financial elements were the most important entrepreneurship factors for MENA respondents, with affordability of taxes and fees (60%), ease of starting up a new business (59%), and ease of finding finances to start a business (59%) as the most important of them. Dubai and Abu Dhabi again received the highest scores in this aspect.

With overall scores combined, Dubai and Abu Dhabi ranked the highest. Dubai and Abu Dhabi also scored extremely well on the happiness scale, with more than three quarters of their residents indicating that they are happy in their city of residence.

Suhail Masri, Vice President of Employer Solutions at, said: “The MENA region is very diverse when it comes to the factors that affect the overall quality of living in each city. Our Top Cities survey ranks the most desirable cities for people to both work and live in. Our responsibility as a leading career site in the region extends to providing job seekers holistic information to make an informed decision if they are, for instance, looking to relocate to any of these cities for work. Simultaneously, when employers know where their city stands, they can do more to contribute to their city’s standard of living by addressing the needs that job seekers are looking for the most. At, we strive to empower people with the tools, information and technologies to build their lifestyle of choice, which is why we always share valuable insights into life in cities that MENA professionals might choose to live in.“

Arleen Gonsalves, Assistant Research Manager, YouGov, said: “this is one of most comprehensive surveys conducted in the MENA, which provides deeper understanding of standards of living across major cities using social and cultural yardstick instead of focusing merely on physical infrastructure. The survey findings give valuable insights to MNCs as well as job seekers who are planning to move to this region.”

Data for the 2016 ‘Top Cities in the Middle East and North Africa’ YouGov survey was collected online from September 23, 2016 to October 18, 2016. Results are based on a sample of 1,436 respondents. Cities assessed include Algiers, Alexandria, Cairo, Amman, Kuwait City, Beirut, Casablanca, Marrakech, Rabat, Muscat, Doha, Jeddah, Riyadh, Eastern Province, Tunis, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Manama, and Sharjah.