5 most expensive MENA cities to live in

May 4, 2017 1:31 pm

The Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) 2017 index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Amman as the most expensive city in the Middle East with a ranking of 29. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Istanbul are placed on 62nd place, while Bahrain is ranked 86th.

According to the Index, the five costliest cities across the MENA region are:

  1. Amman, Jordan (World ranking #29)
  2. Dubai, UAE (World ranking #62)
  3. Abu Dhabi, UAE (World ranking #62)
  4. Istanbul, Turkey (World ranking #62)
  5. Manama, Bahrain (World ranking #86)

Doha, Kuwait City and Cairo are ranked 99th, while Muscat, Al Khobar and Jeddah get the 103rd rank.

The index ranks 133 global cities, comparing more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services. These include food, drink, clothing, household supplies and personal care items, home rents, transport, utility bills, private schools, domestic help and recreational costs.

To determine the rankings, the EIU compares the prices worldwide. Each city is then ranked in comparison to New York on the WCOL Index, with New York assigned a score of 100. Other cities earn a relative score, where a one-point increase or decrease equates to a 1 per cent change in the cost of living. The average price of a loaf of bread, bottle of table wine and liter of gas is included for context, and all prices are listed in US dollars.

Singapore is world’s most expensive city

Singapore retains its title as the world’s most expensive city for a fourth consecutive year, according to this survey. Asia now hosts five out of the six most expensive cities in the world, with Hong Kong at second, Tokyo at fourth and Osaka at sixth place.

According to the Numbeo 2017 Cost of Living Index, which tabulates rankings from a database of user-contributed data about cities and countries worldwide, Kuwait ranks as the 21st most expensive country in the world, one spot ahead of France, six spots ahead of Canada and eight spots ahead of the UK. The index calculates the rankings based on a range of costs, including rentals, groceries, travel, eating out and clothing, etc.

It also ranks Kuwait first among Arab countries (second in the Middle East behind only Israel); nine spots ahead of Qatar (30th worldwide) and 10 ahead of the UAE (31st). According to data in the index, Kuwait’s cost of living index rate reached 75.24 points, compared to 69.20 and 67.98 in Qatar and the UAE respectively.

Meanwhile, Kuwait ranked 16th worldwide in the rent index with 37.82 points, and 18th in the cost of living plus rent index with 57.31 points. In comparison, the UAE and Qatar rank fourth and fifth respectively worldwide in the rent index, and eighth and ninth respectively in the cost of living plus rent index, putting them higher than Kuwait when rent is factored in.

In 2016, Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, ranked Dubai and Abu Dhabi the most expensive cities to live in across the Middle East out of 209 major world cities in its annual Cost of Living Survey.

Dubai top destination for expats

However, as far as quality of living goes, Dubai scored high in its ranking as the Middle East’s top destination for expatriates in the Mercer quality of living index. Dubai moved up to 74th spot (from being 75th) worldwide in terms of the quality of living on offer and 51st in terms of infrastructure. Abu Dhabi was close behind in 79th spot, up three places, according to the influential survey.

Dubai scored for its infrastructure upgrades and ambitious additions. Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure-related ranking was 67, while Muscat and Doha were 97th and 96th, respectively.

Beirut was down from 44th in the last survey, Manama, Bahrain, saws its ranking at 71st, differing from the earlier 91st, Doha was 76th, up from 99th, Muscat came in at 94th, jumping from 117th, Kuwait City was 103rd, also climbing from 117th position in 2015, lastly Jeddah was 121st, a change from 151st.

Talent Mobility Consultant at Mercer Middle East, Rob Thissen, explains on the Mercer website: “The main reason Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and in fact almost all cities in the Middle East increased in rank, is that their currencies are pegged to the US Dollar, with Riyadh for instance currently rated more expensive than Rome.”

“These rankings uniquely combine day-to-day expenditure on goods and services such as food, clothing and transportation, with rental prices. While prices of most goods and services are considered to be cheaper in Saudi Arabia compared with Europe, it is the expatriate rental market that pushes cities like Riyadh and Jeddah up the ranking…What this means is that once again, cities in our region have become more expensive to send people to, with expatriates expecting increased cost of living and housing allowances. To the contrary, when sending staff out of the Middle East, multinationals have to be wary that cost of living allowances are likely to go down, and have to clearly explain and communicate this to their staff to avoid lengthy discussions,” he adds.

Cost of living is the amount of money needed to sustain a certain level of living, including basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes and health care. Cost of living is often used to compare how expensive it is to live in one city versus another locale.


Hina Latif
By Hina Latif
Hina Latif has over six years of media and publishing experience under her belt, spanning multiple magazines and a newspaper in the UAE. She studied creative writing at the University of Oxford and has a Master’s degree in Journalism.