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Saudi Arabia vs. UAE — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 20, 2024
Saudi Arabia is a large, predominantly desert country in the Arabian Peninsula, known for its oil wealth and Islamic significance, while the UAE is a federation of seven emirates known for its modern cities and economic diversification.
Saudi Arabia vs. UAE — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Saudi Arabia and UAE


Key Differences

Saudi Arabia, officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, characterized by its vast desert landscapes and significant oil reserves. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), comparatively smaller, is a federation of seven emirates, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and is known for its ultra-modern architecture and vibrant economic scene.
Saudi Arabia holds a central religious significance in the Islamic world, being home to Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest cities. The UAE, while also predominantly Islamic, is known for its more liberal cultural approach and has become a global hub for tourism, trade, and finance.
Economically, Saudi Arabia's wealth has been heavily based on oil, but it is diversifying under its Vision 2030 program. The UAE has a more diversified economy with major contributions from real estate, tourism, and finance, in addition to oil.
Politically, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, whereas the UAE is a federal monarchy with each emirate having a certain degree of autonomy. The UAE is also known for its expatriate-friendly environment and business-friendly policies.

Comparison Chart

Geographical Size

Larger, mostly desert terrain
Smaller, with diverse landscapes

Religious Significance

Home to Islam’s holiest sites
Known for a liberal approach to Islamic culture


Dominated by oil, diversifying
Highly diversified, including tourism and finance

Political System

Absolute monarchy
Federal monarchy

Cultural Scene

More traditional and conservative
Blend of traditional and modern, global hub

Compare with Definitions

Saudi Arabia

Has significant oil reserves.
The economy of Saudi Arabia is heavily reliant on oil.


A hub for international trade and finance.
The UAE is a key player in global business.

Saudi Arabia

Home to Mecca and Medina.
Millions of Muslims travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj.


A federation of seven emirates.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the most well-known emirates in the UAE.

Saudi Arabia

A large country in the Arabian Peninsula.
Saudi Arabia is known for its vast deserts.


Has a diversified economy.
Tourism plays a major role in the UAE’s economy.

Saudi Arabia

Undergoing economic and social diversification.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 includes various reforms.


Known for its modern cities and architecture.
The UAE boasts of landmarks like the Burj Khalifa.

Saudi Arabia

Governed as an absolute monarchy.
The royal family has significant influence in Saudi Arabia.


Attracts a large number of expatriates.
Expatriates make up a significant part of the UAE’s population.

Common Curiosities

Can women drive in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, women have been allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia since 2018.

Is alcohol allowed in Saudi Arabia?

No, the sale and consumption of alcohol are strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

What is the capital of the UAE?

The capital of the UAE is Abu Dhabi.

Is English widely spoken in the UAE?

Yes, English is widely spoken and understood in the UAE.

What is the currency of Saudi Arabia?

The currency of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Riyal.

Does Saudi Arabia have tourist visas?

Yes, Saudi Arabia now offers tourist visas to visitors from eligible countries.

What is the tallest building in the UAE?

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the UAE and the world.

Does Saudi Arabia have a diversified economy?

Saudi Arabia is currently working towards diversifying its economy beyond oil.

What are the main industries in the UAE?

Major industries in the UAE include oil, real estate, tourism, and finance.

Are there any Christian churches in the UAE?

Yes, there are Christian churches in the UAE.

What is Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030?

Vision 2030 is a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil and diversify its economy.

Can foreigners own property in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, with recent reforms, foreigners can own property in certain areas of Saudi Arabia.

Is the UAE a good place for expats to work?

Yes, the UAE is popular among expatriates for work, offering a tax-free salary and a high standard of living.

What is the main religion in Saudi Arabia?

The main religion in Saudi Arabia is Islam, and it is the state religion.

Are there any world heritage sites in the UAE?

Yes, the UAE has world heritage sites such as the cultural sites of Al Ain.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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