The Top Cities of the Middle East survey, recently conducted by Bayt.com, the region’s number one job site and YouGov, the international research and consulting organisation, has identified the top cities in the Middle East in terms of several wide-ranging factors – from economic to environmental – that affect residents’ life.
According to the survey’s respondents, the top five cities in the Arab world to live in are, in order: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Manama, and Muscat. The survey factored in economic factors, entrepreneurial factors, labour rights, environmental factors, everyday life, socio-cultural factors, and quality of life.
Job availability across the region is considered to be ‘average’ in most cities.Riyadh is considered to have the highest possibility of employment with 49% stating that the availability of jobs is either good or excellent. Doha comes second with 49%, followed by Jeddah (38%), Abu Dhabi (37%) and Dubai (34%). The city considered to have the lowest employment opportunities is Beirut.
Doha is considered to have the most competitive salaries according to 44% of respondents, thoughAbu Dhabifollows closely behind with 41%. Other cities offering compensation that is considered to be high areRiyadh(40%),Dubai(38%) and Sharjah (30%). On the other end of the spectrum Damascus and Amman are considered to offer the lowest salaries, with 68% respondents for each voting bad or poor.
The most affordable housing can be found in Sharjah, with 47% of its residents claiming residential costs are good or excellent. This is followed by Manama with 44%, and Muscat with 34%, while Damascus comes in last with 76% stating that the housing price situation is either bad or poor. Beirut and Algiers come in close behind with 74% and 73%, respectively.
Four out of ten respondents (42%) in Manama state that it is it is excellent in terms of affordability in terms of cost of living. Riyadh and Sharjah, with 30% and 29% respectively, are also considered to be affordable, whereas Amman and Beirut are seen to be the most expensive by its residents.Manamaalso comes out top in terms of affordable utilities, followed by Kuwait City and Riyadh; Beirut and Amman rank lowest.
Would-be entrepreneurs of Sharjah (43%)and Dubai (40%) rate their cities highly in terms of ease of starting up new businesses. On the other end only 18% those from Damascus state that it’s easy to start a new business in Damascus, making it one of the most challenging city.
Cities in the UAE, are rated highly by their residents for their ‘lack of bureaucracy in procedures and paperwork; Dubai receives highest ratingwith four out of ten respondents, followed closely by Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, each with 38%.
The survey shows that finding finances to start a new business is difficult in general across the region, though it is seen as being easy to find funding in Abu Dhabi, according to 40%. New businesses starting up in Damascus, Aleppo, Amman and Cairo will have the most difficulties securing financial support.
When it comes to new ideas and innovation, 56% of respondents state that Dubai is most receptive, followed by Sharjah (52%), while those cities most opposed to rocking the boat are Rabat, Amman (both with 48%), and Marrakech (43%) where reception of new ideas is bad/poor according to residents.
End of service benefits are seen as being highest in GCC cities, especially in Sharjah (44%),Abu Dhabi (42%),Manama (42%) and Kuwait City(41%). Abu Dhabi and Manama also rank highest in terms of employee satisfaction with termination rights, with 41% each. Employees in Beirut believe they are worst off with 66% stating that their end of service benefits are either bad or poor, and 64% claiming their termination rights are just as bad.
Manama, according to 53%,is good/excellent in terms of their vacation allowances. Also, respondents in Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait City also ranked their allotted annual leave days highly. The statistics show least ratingsreceived by Cairo (only 18%).
Beirut receives extremely negative ratings with 73% stating their level of wage protection is bad or poor. Cities in the UAE, particularly Abu Dhabi (44%), rated positively with regards to the wage protection system. Ithas also scored highlyin terms of provision for health insurance, followed by Riyadh and Jeddah.
The city with the least perceived air pollution isMuscataccording to 70% of the city’s residents, while Abu Dhabi ranked second with 61%. Dubai and Sharjah earned 54% and 52%, respectively, while the cities voted with the cleanest water areMuscat,Abu Dhabi, and Dubai.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both tied with 91% of respondents each claiming that their city has the cleanest roads and streets, followed by Muscat with 81%.
Almost three quarters (71%)of Muscat-based respondents believe their city have low levels of noise pollution, with Abu Dhabi coming in second (64%), Dubai third (56%)and Sharjah a close fourth (55%).
Residents of Abu Dhabi voted their city as good/ excellent in terms of having greenery (68%), closely followed by Muscat where 67% of respondents also claim that their city has substantial green areas.
Cairo scored lowest across the board, with seven out of ten (68%) of Cairo residents claiming that their city has the least clean roadways; 74% of residents stating it as having the most polluted air; 65% stating that the level of water pollution is bad or poor; 72% stating that noise pollution levels are high; and 58% stating that there are few green areas in the city.
Muscat and Abu Dhabi both rated consistently high throughout this section of the survey, suggesting the Omani and UAE capitals may be the best cities in the region in terms of the environment.
Following on from its high positioning in terms of green areas, cities in the UAE –Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah – rank highest in terms of the availability of parks and community recreation areas, followed by Muscat.
Abu Dhabi receives highest ratings in terms of availability of quality healthcare facilities with seven out of ten residents (70%) rating the available health care facilities as good or excellent. Manama ranks second (65%) in terms of availability of medical facilities, and the respondents from Bahrain’s capital rank the quality of health-care higher than that available elsewhere.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai claim the top two spots for good/excellent availability of public utilities (84% and 82% respectively), as well as for good/excellent accessibility of their public transportation systems (77% for Dubai and 70% for Abu Dhabi) – the quality of which is considered to be predominantly excellent.
Traffic congestion is lowest in Abu Dhabi and Manama, according to 42% and 40% of respondents respectively, while Cairo’s roads are thought to be busiest. Pedestrian walkways/footpaths are provided for most in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and least in Cairo.
Entertainment venues are most plentiful in Dubai, according to 85% of survey respondents, followed by Abu Dhabi, Beirut (both at 73%) and Manama (72%).
The majority of Beirut residents (71%) state that the availability of educational facilities in their city is high; they also claim that the quality of education is high, with statistics ranking it the highest in the region. Educational options and the quality thereof in Sharjah comes second, followed by Dubai – though Abu Dhabi residents rank their scholastic facilities as being of higher quality than the latter.Access to convenience stores are most easy in Dubai, according to 84% of respondents; Abu Dhabi and Sharjah followclosely with 82% each, Manama comes third with 77%, and Alexandria and Amman fourth with 76% each.
Residents of Tunis have rated their city very highly (63%- good/ excellent) on equality amongst genders. Levels of equality are also perceived to be high in Muscat (60%) and Manama (55%).
The residents of Aleppo (73%) believe that their society is fair to all nationalities, this being highest in the region. Also Tunis, Manama and Marrakech respondents also state a high level of acceptance. On the other hand, Kuwait City is seen as having the least fair treatment of all nationalities (according to 66% of respondents), followed by Riyadh (64%) and Jeddah (61%) – which are seenless tolerantby its residents. For those cities that do embrace multicultural societies, Muscat comes top with 73% of respondents stating tolerance is ‘good’ or ‘excellent’; Marrakech and Abu Dhabi both garnered 69% each, followed by Dubai and Rabat (both with 67%).
Cities in the UAE are believed to have the most effective law enforcement, with 79% of Abu Dhabi respondents stating that law enforcement in their city is good or excellent. Sharjah follows with 76%, with 75% of Dubai respondents claiming the same. Hand in hand with this, Abu Dhabi is also seen to have the lowest crime rates (81% state that low crime rates are good or excellent); 75% of Dubai respondents and 70% of Sharjah respondents feel the same. In Doha, however, crime rates are considered low by 78% of respondents.
Overall quality of life
The residents of Dubai claim to have a high quality of life, with 73% ranking their lifestyle as either good or excellent, while Abu Dhabi’s residents ranked it second with 70%. People are most dissatisfied with the quality of life in Beirut and Damascus, though Algiers comes a close third.
When asked if they would like to move to another city, the highest positive response came from Algiers, with 77% looking to leave, followed by Casablanca with 73%, and Tunis with 71%. The majority of residents across the region who expressed a desire to relocate would prefer to move to another city in a different region – except in the case of Abu Dhabi (where majority would prefer to move to a different city within UAE itself). Abu Dhabi also has the second lowest rate of residents wanting to relocate (43%), coming second to Dubai (33%), among those 52% would prefer to move to a different city within the UAE itself.
Data for the Bayt.com Top Cities of the Middle Eastpoll was collected online from 24th June to 4th July 2012, with 9,038 respondents covering more than 12 countries in the MENA region. The results depicted above are based on a sample size of 6013, which is formed by the respondents of all the major cities in the region.
Before joining SME Advisor, I worked as a producer/reporter for Forbes Media in New York. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and International Studies at the University of South Florida in the US. I am currently in Dubai working as Sub-Editor for SME Advisor Middle East, which is a business magazine published by CPI. You can follow me on Twitter: @joumanasaad or @SMEadvisorME and (Joumana Saad) or (SME Advisor) on LinkedIn.