Today was a moving day – I hopped on this tiny little van with 10 other people at Abu Dhabi bus station and made the short but cramped journey back to Dubai, where I will be spending the last few days of my trip.

The rest of the day has been settling into my hostel – which is run by a lovely Austrian/Korean lady – who simply insists that everyone that stays in her hostel must hang out. Which was fine by all of us!

But apart from that, there’s nothing of real note to report. So imma just reflect on my time in Abu Dhabi quickly, because I think there are some real differences to note between that and Dubai.

First thing that will strike you is that Abu Dhabi moves at a far slower pace than life does in Dubai. Like most notable and major cities in the world – London, Paris, Melbourne – life moves at a breakneck pace. Dubai is no different. The metro is consistently packed with people pacing to get to their next destination, the streets are always filled with cars. There are also a ton more tourists in Dubai.

It just doesn’t feel like you’re in the Middle East when you’re in Dubai!

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In Abu Dhabi, life moves at a more manageable pace – the streets are less congested, the people less hurried. Even the malls aren’t as crazy packed as those in Dubai. But I think what I loved most about Abu Dhabi was the fact that in its pursuit for the ‘modern city,’ it had not lost touch with it’s cultural roots.

Open air markets (my favourite spots to visit when travelling) have maintained a place within the community. In Abu Dhabi, Mina fish market and a veggie night market were two spots that really stood out for me. For me, markets provide some of the truest insight into local life – not only that, but also where food and culture collide!

Unlike Dubai, mosques are also commonplace (I don’t think I’ve seen one in Dubai), tucked away amidst the skyscrapers and shopping malls. The call to prayer would ring out 5 times a day – a beautiful melodic reminder of how faith and spirituality remains ever entwined within daily life for the locals.

Call me old-fashioned but I appreciate tradition and culture – and find that it is incredibly important to hold on to those things even as society advances. The idea that as all cities become more alike, culture becomes more alike terrifies me. What makes us – humans – unique is that we are all uniquely different. We each offer different perspectives, different thoughts, different experiences.

Losing touch with the essence of that puts our collective ability to innovate and grow in jeopardy.


Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.

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Instagram: @chinkinthearmour

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