The dog days of a Dubai summer

This post was going to be about reaching THAT time of the school summer holiday, when you’re so over it and have become a twitchy, cranky mess, breaking out in zits and clawing at your skin because it’s been TEN weeks and the kids are STILL out of school.

You know how it is – they’re fighting and bored and so so loud – not to mention the fact they’ve been talking to you non-stop for ten weeks until it’s got to the point where you can see their mouths opening and closing but can’t really hear what they’re saying and you can do nothing but nod at whatever their moving lips are trying to assault you with.

And while I’m at it, I’m sure I’m not the only mum who has totally run out of things to do with them, having already ticked off two continents, nearly 40,000 kilometres of air travel and, as well as planes, taken them on a cruise ship, a boat, buses, scooters, bikes and trains.

Screen Shot 2017-08-27 at 22.31.27But … that might come across as whining when I am truly grateful to have had this time with my boys.

Instead, it occurred to me that there are a few factors that make these last couple of weeks before school starts again quite unique (read: challenging) in Dubai.

Let’s start with the heat. It’s still as hot as Hades out there. Much of the compound’s communal greenery has been singed to within an inch of being set alight under the hottest sun on earth; large areas of plant life have sadly died. Where there were green, bushy shrubs, there are now dried up, tangly bush-skeletons shedding brown, curled-up, dead leaves onto the dusty paths. On my dog walks past these summer casualties, it all feels very post-apocalyptic – the burnt-out fag-end of a Dubai summer.

Not only that, but while the buildings are still standing, it’s as though the people have all gone. Some of them are still there, of course. They’re just indoors as it’s too hot to come out. They won’t properly resurface until school starts. But many are still away, not wanting the holiday bubble to burst just yet.

Our compound feels like a ghost town. The children who are back from their hols are climbing the walls cooped up at home, and, up the road at the Premier Inn, there are still lots of single-for-the-summer dads staring into their pints, indulging in the restaurant’s 50% off meal deals.

But in just a few more days, a week at the most, all the wives and families will be back. I’ll no longer have to twitchily scour the compound looking for familiar faces, searching hopefully for friends for my bored sons to play with. The compound will be back in business, the hammering on doors non-stop again as the children call for each other.

And then school will start. Followed, a month or so later, by the halcyon days of cooler temperatures and some of the best weather in the world. Bring it on!

Hang in there peeps …


Armageddon on Al Qudra

It’s been an unusual day, to say the least.

Children in the UAE might have squealed with delight as they paddled up and down the street in inflatables and sailed boats to the supermarket (no joke) …

kids having fun in rain
Lucky kids: School’s out again tomorrow

But me – well I lost my mojo somewhere on Al Qudra street – about an hour into the apocalyptic traffic jam attempting to inch its way through biblical floods last seen by Noah.

It all started at 4am, with an enormous crash of thunder. Lightning sliced the sky. But even then, the morning school run was fine – just a disappointed son to contend with following the cancellation of his school trip. Actually, he was more worried about the fact his lunch was in a plastic Spinneys bag (as requested by the teacher). “Mummy, go home and get my lunch box!” he pleaded while I tried to stop him lobbing his sandwiches away.

The sky quickly turned a scrubbed pigeon grey then a really ominous granite colour, sort of slated and solemn. Daylight made only a feeble attempt to break through the billowing cloud cover. The rain, when it came, drummed wildly on our roof. It lashed the windows, cascaded off our garage in a waterfall, and collected in huge ‘ponds’ that within an hour or so all joined up to form floods the size of lakes.

The schools closed, I can’t even begin to imagine what happened at the airports. Buildings flooded, structural damage occurred and the traffic snarled up until it grid-locked so badly I took a big chance and swerved onto sand in the hope of ploughing my way through a building site to escape the Armageddon on Al Qudra (I made it!).

This Dubai driver didn't make it
This Dubai driver didn’t make it

The children, meanwhile, went out in their swimming gear. A neighbour took his canoe for a paddle round the compound. Ironically, the water cut off in our villa – I did see the funny side of this, given that outside it was knee-deep, with waves rippling up the path every time a car swished by, wheels hissing. The lights started flickering … “Picked a great week for our winter-sun holiday, didn’t we?” said my Mum as she Facebooked photos of the rain for the amusement of British friends and family.

Her last photo, of tankers vacuuming up the rainwater through giant straws, was captioned: “Now we’ve seen it all!”

Dubai really doesn’t do rain.

Keep safe tomorrow everyone.


September’s sticky start

So the new term is underway and taking no prisoners already. After meandering our way through the summer, September always feels like turning onto a highway where all the cars are going faster, and your best chance is riding in someone else’s slipstream until you’ve gained enough speed to keep up.

Just a little bit close out there.
Just a little bit close out there.

Back-to-school nights, school runs, assignments, activities and homework are all back on the agenda – made just that little bit sweatier by the yukky climate at this time of year.

Humidity has hovered around the 75-80 per cent mark and the temperature remains in the high 30s/low 40s. I sat outside my son’s classroom last week with steamed-up sunglasses and sweat stinging my eyes. I wiped my brow, glanced at my watch (they were late out), cursing the fact the school run is at the hottest part of the day. By the time you get back to the car, you’re red in the face and panting.

Woe betide if you forget to tie long hair up – it can feel like you’re in a sauna fully dressed, with hell breathing on the back of your neck. What you also notice about the humidity is not just the fog that can blanket the city in a hazy mist, but that all the windows have massive amounts of condensation dripping down them.

On the upside, it was beautiful at 7.30am this morning. Last night, I even felt a slight breeze – a waft of air that I gasped gratefully. Not long now folks till winter! It’s coming soon to a beach, park, garden near you, and I can’t wait.