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 …


The dos and don’ts of a Dubai summer

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 18.34.20


– Bother straightening your hair. Within an hour you’ll look like a lion with a proudly fizzy mane (“That scene from the Lion King, where Simba shakes his head as he gets out of the pool, singing hakuna matata,” says my friend B. “That’s me and POOF!

– Leave your sunglasses in the car. The rim of your Ray-Bans will burn your face.

– Wear jeans. Peeling them off will feel like shedding your own skin.

– Be surprised if you find yourself in a shopping mall… again.

– Visit friends who don’t use their air conditioning.

 – Feel guilty for staying indoors all day.

– Think taxi drivers are rude for rolling their window up really fast to stop the hot air coming in.

– Forget to wear flip-flops until the moment you get in the pool, or you’ll find yourself hopping around like a jackrabbit on steroids.


– Brace yourself for third-degree burns when touching the car steering wheel after leaving your vehicle in the sun.
*Ouch* … “Oven glove!! Where are you?”

– Get used to buildings sweating as humidity condensation drips down the windows.

– Wipe your phone screen on your T-shirt before sending a text.

– Save yourself the bother of ironing your clothes. The heat and humidity will make you wet and crinkled anyway.

– Apply sunscreen before you even open the curtains.

– Towel off the wet patches that appear on the back of your knees.

– Vow to get up an hour earlier to enjoy the cool of the morning. And then oversleep.

– Take care walking in the mist (when your sunglasses steam up after getting out the car).

– Skip blow-drying your hair. Winding the window of your car down is like turning on a hairdryer and directing it at your face.

– Turn off the hot-water tank. The sun-warmed water from the cold tap is hot enough for showers.

– Wonder why the odd person out running or cycling during the day hasn’t died.

– Open your car window when you get in – breathing in the fumes in an enclosed space filled with super-heated dashboard plastics is like doing glue from hot vinyl bottles.

– Look out for ‘staycation’ hotel deals that are so good they’re practically carrying you inside.


Summer is over: Time to remember the day of the week

The radio silence over the past week was because we were moving house. We couldn’t have picked a better time really – it’s as hot as Hades (see temperature, according to the car, below!) and as humid as a steam room. Needless to say, it was all rather fatiguing, and that was with packers who did an amazing job carting enormous pieces of furniture out of the house in the furnace-like heat.

Is it humid today?

The movers went by the name Delight – and, quite honestly, they lived up to it.

All my back-to-school chores were promptly forgotten during the chaos of moving, and so when we surfaced from the remaining boxes, it was with some trepidation that I turned my thoughts to the fact Son1 was starting a new school in three days’ time, and had NO UNIFORM whatsoever.

Cue: urgent dash to the Meydan Racecourse, where there was a pop-up shop selling the red-and-grey uniforms.

An odd place to sell such items, you might think. All the horses were gone (beating the heat in Europe), and the shop was located there as the under-construction school was still in a rather unfinished state with hoardings all around it and builders hammering away.

Dubai has a habit of pulling these things off, and today, the school opened! (Read: Thank God). Son1, who we’d pulled from a school he loved due to distance, had a great day, to my relief. And I finally got some peace, after two months of holiday.

I think maybe all boy mums will know what I mean when I say that after a prolonged period of noise so loud and jarring it could even rattle the pans on the shelf in the kitchen (think: stampeding around, crashing and yelling and fighting – not all the time, but enough of it to hurt my head!), it’s just so nice to have some space to think.

Enjoy the quiet mums!


Throwback Thursday: The Expat Olympics

Circles staggers over the final hurdle to win gold in the hail-a-taxi-in-rush-hour relay!
Circles staggers over the final hurdle to win gold in the hail-a-taxi-in-rush-hour relay!

If you think about it, it’s a funny ole thing that expats spend such a big chunk of the year away from their adopted home, living out of a suitcase. While most people take two-week holidays, for expats six to eight weeks is often necessary in order to see all your family and friends who you don’t see the rest of the year.

As we all know, it’s not always plain sailing …

With the Rio Olympics about to start, I thought I’d repost my list of some of the events that expats the world over would be in great shape for this summer:


  • Catch every flight, with time to spare
  • Pole-position passport-queuing
  • The find-your-holiday-home-before-dark Road Race
  • The 32-hour-day Time Trial
  • Sprint to the toilets before the inevitable


  • The up-before-dawn jet-lagged 6YO (how long til you lose it?)
  • The bath-book-bed triathlon in new surroundings
  • The time-zone jump (how many days to adjust? Bonus points for family members under 10)
  • The Eventing marathon (plan and execute four to six weeks of events and get-togethers without leaving anyone out)
  • The 1,500km cross-country steeplechase (how many relatives can you visit?)
  • Sofa surfing (who needs a good night’s sleep anyway?)


  • Stay vertical at the Bar during reunions with friends
  • The Parallel park on tiny roads
  • The Roll-your-clothes test (does this mean you can fit more in your suitcase?)
  • Pommelling-it-shut after repacking
  • The Beam-me-up-Scotty moment (when it all gets too much)
  • The Dismount (when DH extricates himself from the travelling circus and goes back to work – no blubbing)


  • The daily Dress-Arghh competition (find something uncreased to wear in your capsule wardrobe)
  • Ride public transport in rush hour with children and suitcases
  • The don’t-stick-your-oar-in family regatta (aka, don’t rock the boat if it’s best left unsaid)
  • The triple shift childcare derby (one mum, two whining kids, DH gone)
  • Synchronised schedules (find a good moment to Skype your absent DH)
  • The overtired tantrum throw (how many until you have one yourself?)

On being an emotional wreck at the end of term!

I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of the school year. Just a week to go here in the UAE. I find it such an emotional time. Friends leaving, switching schools. A forced move coming up. Time passing too quickly.

I had a mini meltdown today. Overwhelmed by it all, tears crept out the corners of my eyes and I wiped them away briskly before I turned into a huge puddle. They were triggered by a goodbye email from Son#1’s teacher, an incredible lady who has nurtured so much creativity in the class. I’m so grateful to this teacher for steering the children through such a wonderful year (Son#1’s last at this particular school due to our forced relocation).

Barack Obama
Guess who? Thank God he didn’t do Trump

It does seem that the end-of-the-school year is a period of heightened emotion for many people in the UAE. Not only are most of us leaving on extended summer leave to escape the climate, but this year a greater number of families are exiting the country permanently. The past few months have seen quite a shake-up, with some big and difficult decisions to make. Good luck to all of you spreading your wings and know that you’ll be sorely missed.

Before this post sets me off again, here’s some light relief – my 10-year-old’s wish list, which came home today as part of his portfolio of work. Amid all the change in the air, this really made me smile – as did the artwork pictured. Son#1 hasn’t been the easiest child, but his left-handed creativity blows me away!

A 10-year-old boy’s wish list

No homework
Free laptop
Lamborghini (spelling corrected – only in Dubai!)
Xbox 360
A real lightsaber
No brother (I’m sure he doesn’t mean it, haha!)
Nerf gun
iPad 5

Max's art
Love how the tree has money, iPads and Xb0x controllers as fruit. Who says these things don’t grow on trees?!

Who left the oven on?

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 22.27.53At school drop-off this morning, the usual line-up of big cars jostled for position up and down the length of the road. This nearly always involves double-parking then running into school at lightning speed to deposit Son2, before hot-footing it back to move my vehicle.

I’m Speedy Gonzales. The last thing you want at that ungodly-hour of the morning is to get back to your car and find you’ve blocked someone in who has a dental (or hair) appointment to get to. I’ve messed up before – a mum was waiting for me, her penciled-on eyebrows hovering somewhere near her hairline. We had ‘words’. Never again.

This morning, I glanced at the woman parked in front of me as she grappled with a shiny, metallic-silver sunshade. She attached it to her car’s windshield as though she was blindfolding the window. It’s common practice here if you’re leaving your car outdoors all day. Apparently the deflective heat shield stops the dashboard losing its colour in the UV light. Whether it also means you can hold the steering wheel without being burnt when you return to your car, I’m not sure.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 22.29.55
Breathing through hot, sticky treacle takes a little know-how 

We’ve reached that time of year, you see. When you step out of your car into the heat of the morning and it’s only 7.45am. You lock the doors with a click and breathe in air that’s already heavy – thick with a cloying sultriness that turns your car into an oven while stationary.


At work, I’ve noticed the journalists don’t particularly want to go out to meetings anymore. I don’t have too far to walk from the car to my office building, but by the time I enter the wide, glass doors, there are already beads of perspiration forming in the fine lines on my forehead and between my shoulder blades. The office, in contrast, is blissfully cool and I take a moment to enjoy the feel of the air-conditioning hitting my skin.

I feel very lucky, actually, to be in work when the temperature rises. As well as AC, there’s a circular Dyson fan mounted on a pedestal, which somehow cleverly wafts a breeze over without any moving blades. You can even put your head in it. In fact, I hear more complaints at work about being cold. When my friend texted today to say she was ‘dying sweating by the swimming pool while her boys had their swim lessons’, I thanked my lucky stars.

But still – we had a good, long stretch of perfect, cooler weather (5 months), and all the cloud seeding the UAE has being doing to make it rain has been much appreciated.

Dubai summer – I’m ready for you. Until I’m back on afternoon school-run duties during the hottest, sweatiest part of the day.


Summer: The elephant in the room

I was out for dinner the other night with my parents and a lovely couple who’d recently moved to Dubai. They’d swapped everything they knew and loved in Surrey for a new life on the Palm, and had thrown themselves into the frenetic world of work, Middle East style.

We talked about how she’d already taken a (temporary) job that involved commuting to Abu Dhabi (I was impressed, that road isn’t for the faint hearted, even with a driver). And we talked about their daughters, embarking on adult lives on different continents.

Then, all of a sudden, there it was: the elephant at the table. Amid all the promise of beach trips, handbag shopping and desert safaris, there’s a hurdle all UAE residents face: the Dubai summer. “We won’t be able to get back to the UK until much later in the year,” she told us. “We’ll be here all summer.”

My mum looked aghast! I’m sure she visibly paled. (March is their preferred month to visit, and I do understand why.)

She's clinging on to her scarf and boots until sweat patches appear
She’s clinging on to her scarf and boots until sweat patches appear
I immediately tried to soothe things over: “It’s not too bad,” I said. “Honestly.” I attempted to explain that lots more women stay now, the city’s much quieter and working through the summer is no problem. (It’s when you have small children climbing the walls and bankrupting you every day for 10 weeks that you start throwing plates around.)

I’m posting on this subject because those of us who live here are sharing a similar sentiment this week: IT’S COMING!

We’ve entered that murky zone where you’re trying not to turn the AC on, but give in. Firms that offer AC cleaning are working round the clock, and if you pull on a pair of jeans in the morning, by lunchtime you’re peeling them off to don your summer staples of shorts and flip flops (again).

At the school gates, comments are being bandied around to the tune of “It’s warming up” and “Winter’s over”. Unless you’re particularly stubborn or sweat-proof, the scarves and wraps have been put away, boots consigned to the back of the cupboard.

Give it a few more weeks of rising temperatures and we’ll all be asking each other: “So, when are you leaving?”