A Winter’s Tale
It has been a lovely winter over here in Dubai. Usually the winter is only distinguishable from the rest of the year by a slight drop in temperature: in all other ways the weather remains the same – blazing blue skies and relentless sunshine. This year, however, it has rained A LOT. We’ve had proper, pelting-it-down rain lasting for hours; we’ve had thunder storms, tenacious fog, thick cloud coverage and day-long drizzle. We’ve had plenty of sunny days too, of course, but they have been tempered by a delicious cool breeze. All in all, it has been much like an English summer, which makes me very lucky as that means I have had two English summers in the course of a year (I was home for a couple of glorious months in the middle of last year, and what a wonderful summer it was!).
On several occasions over recent weeks the temperature has plummeted to 13 degrees centigrade. While the tourists are still optimistically strolling around in shorts and t-shirts, local residents and those from other toasty-warm Arabic and Asian countries are wearing thick woollen jumpers, waterproof trousers and fur-lined boots. Children are being sent off to school wearing winter coats stuffed with goose-down. I even saw a chap out walking his Labrador, and both man and dog were wearing fleece jackets. But people are still boldly braving the beach – shivering in their bikinis and swimming briskly in the sea. Last week, friends on a boat trip spotted a pod of dolphins playing in the surf near the Dubai coast; we are not often honoured by such guests, the sea temperatures are usually much too warm for their liking. What next? one wonders: Penguins huddling for warmth on the beaches of The Palm Jumeirah? Polar bears hunting amidst the frozen tundra of Arabian Ranches?
I have loved being able to walk around all morning or even all afternoon without getting sun stroke: going to the park, walking down to the beach, eating lunch outside. My intrepid husband has even been out running in the middle of the day, giving credence to the famous Noel Coward lyric, ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen attempt to improve their 10K PB in the midday sun…’ We have enjoyed a few cosy evenings at home as the rain poured down outside. The giant flag at the bottom of Diyafah Street has, for the first time in my memory, been fully unfurled by a strong, steady wind. Patches of sandy wasteland have sprouted with grasses and tiny bright flowers.
Of course, this wintry weather is not without its drawbacks: the roads have flooded, the washing takes longer to dry and, several times, I have had to put on socks in the evenings. The cat has taken to sleeping inside the wardrobe, snuggling up on an old jumper of mine and, when the sun does shine, she stretches out on the windowsill, soaking up every single moment of warmth, like a basking reptile (but much more pretty and fluffy).
Schools have been closed due to downpours; outdoor events have been cancelled. Our favourite Greek restaurant closed their terrace seating area ‘Due to inclement weather’ (there was a chilly breeze). At the school at which I teach, the fate of Sports Day hung in the balance as PE teachers nervously watched the grey skies. In the same way that children in the UK feel it is entirely justified to stop a lesson with, ‘Miss, it’s snowing!’ (followed by a stampede to the window), children here will actually interrupt a high-level discussion on Wilfred Owen’s powerful lexical choices in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est…’ in order to tell me that it has started raining outside.
While many British expats have complained, claiming they could have stayed at home if they had wanted to be wet and miserable, I have loved every blessed, drizzly minute of it. After all, it’s only a matter of time until the skies clear, the mercury rises, the tarmac melts and the sand becomes hot enough to burn the soles of your feet. In the mean time I shall be the one out walking in the morning mist, taking pictures of the sparse desert flowers and turning my grateful face up to the cool and cloudy sky above.
[Exit, pursued by a polar bear]