Saturday, June 13, 2009

Desert Notes: The Chill of Winter

Its winter in the UAE. I know this because the shops are selling big woolly jerseys, heavy jackets, scarves and gloves. And the locals are getting cold.

And the amazing thing is that the daytime temperatures have yet to drop below 30 degrees Celsius.

The weather in Abu Dhabi has a bizarre fascination for me. Mostly because it can generally be described as variations on the theme of hot.

You get hot and humid. Hot and dry. Hot and windy. Hot and sandy. Hot and muggy. Hotter. Slightly less hot. And lots of sunshine.

During the summer, I feel dreadfully sorry for the person who has to write the daily weather reports for The Gulf News. How many ways can you think of to say “hot and sunny”? The poor slob who has been lumbered with the task does try. We get descriptions like “hot and sunny” and “sunny and hot” and even occasionally “hot with plenty of sunshine.”

So how hot does the summer actually get? The guide books will tell you that from May to September daytime temperatures are in the low to mid-40’s. In July and August it will sit at around 46 to 48 degrees. Occasionally it actually does reach 50. With a relative humidity of between 60 – 90%.

It sounds all impressive. But what does it actually mean in real life?

You can save a lot on your electricity bill if your water tank is on your roof (as most are). Because the water is hot enough not to actually need your geyser (or boiler as they call it here).

It also means that everywhere is air conditioned. Your house. Your car. The shops. Schools. Churches. Mosques. Every damn place you can think of.

The aircon everywhere thing is great. Except on really humid days if you wear glasses, because then the minute you step outside your glasses mist over it is really very annoying.

I hate the humidity. It’s the absolute worst thing. On the days with humidity about 70% and 46 degree temperatures it is pretty much like walking around in a sauna when you are outside. And you’d simply love just to dive into the nearest swimming pool.

Except that the swimming pools have to be specially cooled to make swimming a refreshing experience and not like having a warm bath.

Which brings me back to the subject of winter in Abu Dhabi.

It is definitely noticeably cooler. It really is. Just the drop from 46 to 42 could be felt, and now that it has actually been in the 30’s, I’ve been able to let the kids go and play outside in the afternoons.

The sight of a cloud actually gets people excited. And we even had rain yesterday. At least 5 drops fell on our windscreen!

But the thought of the winter woollies they are selling in the shops still amazes me. The average winter temperature is apparently 22 degrees Celsius. But the clothing on sale is more suited to a European winter.

I can’t help giggling though, at the reactions of those who have been living here for a long time.

My eldest daughter was at a swimming party recently. It was held late afternoon, and the temperature must have been in the mid-thirties. The waiter brought a round of softdrinks for the kids and one of the mothers nearly had hysterics at the sight of ice in the glass. She complained that the kids had just been swimming and the ice in the softdrink would make the kids too cold….

And recently, while waiting outside the classroom to fetch the kids from school, a couple of the mums were talking about the swimming lessons. One mum was saying that it is starting to get “too cold” for the children to swim, and she was worried her child would get the flu. The temperature on the day in question was about 34 degrees.

I think it has all got to do with what you’re used to. When you have been sitting with 46 degree temperatures for a couple of months, 22 degrees does actually feel cold.

I should know. I have a jersey on. Because the thermostat on our air conditioner appears to be stuck on 24 degrees Celsius, and I’m cold.

I knew it. I’ve gone local. Or is that loco?

No comments: