According to yesterday’s newspaper, May, thus far, has been the hottest on record with an average of 42°C in Abu Dhabi. Soaring temperatures make being outside unpleasant, and streets around noon often have a desolate feel about them. Another newspaper article, a couple of days ago, quipped: “. . . the human comfort index has dropped down to poor level”. I like the fact that there is a “human comfort index” here, even though I am a bit mystified as to what exactly it is and how it would be calculated. Even Google is a bit evasive on this issue, but heat certainly plays a sizable role, as would be expected when it feels as if one is living in an oven.
Paging through the newspaper I spotted a variety of outdoor events still scheduled up to the end of May before, as they put it “summer starts”. What? At 40°C summer is not here yet? “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I mumbled with a nervous giggle.
From the 15th of June to the 15th of September, the government enforces a break for labourers who toil outside from noon until 3pm. Dehydration is a very real enemy in the scorching summer months and people are constantly reminded to drink plenty of water, and to take salt tablets. I do not envy anyone whose job takes them outside during the summer months, my hubby included, as he often has to spend time outdoors. I guess I’ll be on the lookout for as many indoor activities possible.
This being my first summer in the UAE, everything concerning the heat is new to me. Having arrived here at the end of October, I had a month of 35°C heat, before winter set in, so I had plenty of time to slowly adjust to the weather. At least that is what I used to and liked to think. Now I’m not so sure anymore. Nothing can quite prepare one for the heat that at the coast is considered muggy and humid, while inland it is more aptly described as dry and blistering. Words like sweltering and stifling come to mind every time I leave a cool enclave to brave the stark reality of what is termed summer.
The burdening heat is not the only thing that makes summers here taxing, it seems. The air is constantly filled with a powdery dust that is reminiscent of talcum powder. Early one evening, as I sat on the couch, a movement at the window caught my eye. I have just opened the window for some much-needed fresh air, and what I saw completely startled me. Someone was throwing handfuls of dust through the fly screen! The only problem was that someone couldn’t possibly be doing that, as our apartment is on the 10th floor. Fascinated I stared at the window and the intermittent ‘handfuls’ of dust that kept being thrown into the apartment. It took nearly five minutes before I managed to break free from the trance like spell it casted on me and closed the window. How on earth was it possible for dust to be flung through the air like that? Shortly afterwards I realised that the handfuls of dust was a harbinger of a dust storm that suddenly choked the sky.
One of the things I am learning to appreciate here is air-conditioners. Where I have in the past despised them as power-hungry and icy, I now consider them a lifesaver and conveniently ignore the amount of electricity they feed on. At home where I can control the temperature, I set it at a comfortable 28°C, but shopping malls often resemble the arctic, and although one welcomes the first blast of cold air when stumbling through the sliding doors to escape the dragon’s breath, the cool friend quickly turns into a frigid enemy. I have learned to wear tops with long sleeves or a little shawl around the shoulders when visiting the mall or other potentially icy places, but I mostly feel a tad unprepared as I am being flung between these two extremes.
And as I am fluctuating between roasting and freezing, I am ever hopeful that I will find a manageable equilibrium in which I can survive the next couple of months.
** Check out the weather forecast for Ras-al-Khaimah here!