The top 5 cheapest MENA cities to live in are. . .

May 7, 2017 4:17 pm

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is home to some of the cheapest cities in the world. In the Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) 2017 Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 133 cities were surveyed to rank them according to their cost of living.

Algiers, Algeria, scored the lowest ranking in the MENA region at 127, followed by and Tehran in Iran and Damascus, Syria, at 119.

Muscat, Oman, along with Al Khobar and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia are the most affordable cities to live among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and the wider Middle East region. They are ranked 103 on the EIU index. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is ranked at 112.

In the Index, the following five cities head the list among MENA’s cheapest cities:

1. Algiers, Algeria (World ranking #127)

2. Tehran, Iran (World ranking #119)

3. Damascus, Syria (World ranking #119)

4. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (World ranking #112)

Jeddah and Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman (World ranking #112)

The index ranks these 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% change in the cost of living. The average price of a loaf of bread, a bottle of table wine and liter of gas is included for context, and all prices are listed in US dollars.

The top of the list is dominated by cities in Africa and the Indian subcontinent, but a handful in Europe are also listed. Almaty in Kazakhstan pipped Lagos in Nigeria to the title of world’s cheapest city. India also has Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi among the bottom 10. After Almaty, Bucharest (Romania), Kiev (Ukraine) and St Petersburg (Russia) offer the lowest prices.

There are slight variations in the Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index, which tabulates rankings from a database of user-contributed data about cities and countries worldwide. The 2017 Numbeo List ranks the following five cities from around the 500 cities surveyed according to their low cost of living.

1. Cairo, Egypt (World ranking #482)

2. Tunis, Tunisia (World ranking #443)

3. Bursa, Turkey(World ranking # 418)

4. Izmir, Turkey (World ranking # 412)

5. Algiers, Algeria (World ranking #410)

The Numbeo Index, which is based on crowd-sourced rather than government data, takes into account a total of 50 factors from rent to cellphone bills, and compares the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of each country with New York City, which boasts a CPI of 100. It rates the affordability of each country according to the people who live there.

However, the Numbeo Index ranks Sana’a (#229) in Yemen, and Baghdad (#231) in Iraq as the region’s three lowest-ranked cities for quality of living.

Though the cost of living is rising in Muscat, it is still one of the cheapest cities for expatriates to live in the Middle East, according to the annual Cost of Living Survey (2016),  carried out by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm. Global rankings placed Muscat at the 94th position in the world in 2016, a fall from 117 in 2015. Among other regional cities, Riyadh and Jeddah find themselves further down the ranking at 166th and 169th, respectively

The survey includes more than 375 cities throughout the world; this year’s ranking includes 209 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. The ranking compares day-to-day expenditure on goods and services, such as food, clothing and transportation, as well as rental prices.

Even in the 2016 Mercer Index, among cities where quality of living is an issue, Baghdad gets the lowest ranking (at 231), falling behind even Damascus (placed 225), in the rankings. The report states that an increasing number of locations are becoming cheaper because of the impact of political or economic disruption.

Updated and expanded for 2017, the Africa and Middle East Backpacker Index once again shows that travel is quite inexpensive to many popular cities, though some in this region are among the most expensive in the world.

Generally speaking, Africa and most of the Middle East get very little tourism compared to the rest of the world, as one major problem is infrastructure. Many people who travel in this region do so partly because it hasn’t been well trodden like Europe or most of Asia. The Backpacker Index ranks the following cities as the cheapest tourist destinations in the region.

1. Cairo, Egypt

2. Marrakech, Morocco

3. Fez, Morocco

4. Amman, Jordan

5. Beirut, Lebanon

Read also: 5 most expensive MENA cities to live in


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.