Dubai and Abu Dhabi are ranked 26th and 30th respectively in Time Out's pick of 37 best cities in the world in 2021 -- the only cities in the Middle East to make the cut.
To create the rankings, Time Out conducted a global survey of 27,000 city dwellers to rate where they live on a range of markers including the traditional, such as food and culture, but also those more oriented to the future, such as community projects, green space and sustainability.
The list is peppered with predictable entries, such as Amsterdam (2), Tokyo (10) and Barcelona (14).
But there are some unexpected entries, including Manchester (3), which beat UK capital London (13) by 10 places.
Even the winner is something of a surprise. San Francisco is not exactly unheralded but it has rarely eclipsed the likes of New York (5), Los Angeles (11) and Chicago (12).
Time Out's top 10 global cities 2021 - Full list in gallery
1. San Francisco
5. New York
8. Tel Aviv
Dubai and Abu Dhabi may not have made the top 10 but they were the only cities from the Middle East to be named in the 37.
Dubai (26) was described as ambitious by 66 per cent of its residents and earned particular commendation for how it had adapted to the coronavirus pandemic:
"Fine-dining restaurants pivoted to home delivery, massive New Year’s Eve shows were live-streamed globally and, in 2021, gigs and Dubai’s most popular pastime – brunch – returned to the city’s social agendas, thanks to strict social distancing, mask wearing and an on-it vaccination programme."
Unsurprisingly, the recently opened Time Out Market Dubai was namechecked. The market is the magazine's attempt to "to bring together the best of the city under one roof" in Downtown’s Souq Al Bahar.
Spread across 3,994 square metres, the dining destination encompasses 17 eateries, three bars, a sweeping outdoor terrace and so much more into one space that encompasses the best food, drinks and culture that Dubai has to offer.
Also mentioned in dispatches in was the upcoming Dubai Expo 2020 in October, when 190 countries from around the world will gather in the City of Gold in a celebration of innovation and culture.
Time Out says it is an indicator of why 79 per cent of Dubaians called their city diverse.
Abu Dhabi's relaxing effect recognised
Four places down the list is Abu Dhabi (30). Its residents noted its differences with the more ostentatious attractions of Dubai, but said that it "more than holds its own when it comes to quality of life, world-class restaurants and big-hitting attractions".
There is clearly something of a balm for the soul about the place as 72 per cent of Abu Dhabians said it is relaxing, a remarkable accolade given the singularly unrelaxing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, Abu Dhabi is the perfect city to see out a pandemic – 99 per cent said the city was not overcrowded.
It was also lauded for free vaccinations and easy access to PCR testing.
These factors were recognised in another list on Thursday, with Abu Dhabi topping a global ranking of 50 cities for its Covid response. Dubai was fifth.
It is not all leisurely living in the city, of course, with those feeling the need for speed able to indulge their yearning on the world's fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World.