I’ve come over all 19th century genteel in the last few weeks. Since the temperature in Dubai now regularly hits 40 plus I am taking a bit more care before I casually step outdoors. Moving too fast through a fan-heater-on-high-environment transforms this milky white English skin into a shade akin to boiled lobster in a few minutes.
When I arrived in February ample supplies of factor 30+ sun screen seemed to suffice but I soon added a cheeky straw sun hat to the armoury. A relatively new accessory now completes the Ruth Badley sun protection collection- a large umbrella-cum-parasol in summer-bright turquoise.
There it was, hanging with its lime green companions in the Japanese novelty shop modelled on Poundland. A useful item at a bargain price is a rare find in Dubai Mall and it is proving its worth as my constant companion. This morning it even shielded me from attack by an aggressive crow!
The sober black collapsible version, my former must-have handbag accessory, has now been relegated to the back of the cupboard. Damaged by one of those sudden Harrogate gusts but still functioning, this faithful friend made a brief re-appearance during a recent trip back to the UK, where rain interrupts play on a regular basis whatever the time of year. It will, no doubt be called into service when I journey back in September.
Using an umbrella for sun protection is just one of many strategies some of us less hardy expats employ to cope with the soaring temperatures. A Dubai ‘winter’ means hot days and cooler evenings. We have now entered the summer season when the days are very hot with rising levels of humidity after dark. When the sun goes down the temperature stays more or less the same. It all makes for a few lifestyle changes and interesting contrasts.
1. I no longer wake up and look out of the window to find out what the weather is like. There are no surprises and few variations. It is either very hot, even hotter than yesterday or hot with reduced visibility, due to a sandstorm.
2. I dress with a certain confidence in the morning, safe in the knowledge that conditions will not change half way through the morning, rendering my outfit totally inappropriate for the rest of the day.
3. Air-conditioning is a glorious relief from the heat but it can be too effective The Mall is not just for shopping, it is a comfort stop! Stay too long though, and you might need to head for the door in order to warm up. Sensible friends of mine carry a cardi in their bag for just these moments.
4. Stepping from an air-conditioned car or apartment into an evening of high humidity is like being pushed towards an open oven door and a nightmare for people who wear glasses. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have made an unsophisticated entrance into the lobby of a smart hotel because my glasses have steamed up.
5. The glorious feel of swimming in an outdoor pool at 10pm, when the air temperature is still in the 30s, is a new and welcome change. Or relaxing on a sun lounger and looking at the night sky – both offer novel ways to wind down.
6. I have had to get used to taking the use by dates on food stuffs literally. Milk goes off as the clock strikes midnight on the date shown on the bottle. Every time.
7. It’s a hard habit to break but I have finally stopped over-stocking the fridge. Daily shopping for fresh food you are going to eat in the next 24-48 hours is the way to go to avoid waste. The ambient temperature is so much higher than in the UK it makes a huge difference to keeping qualities, plus most foods have already been flown in from a long distance before they are sold.
8. Accepting that it is now too hot to enjoy eating outside is a tough one. This has taken a while to sink in as any Brit will appreciate.
9. I no longer mind that hot water also comes out of the cold tap. Hey, that’s how it goes here. I’m grateful it’s wet.
10. Driving beats walking as the sensible option from May to October. Even walking a short distance in 40 degree heat is deceptively hard going, as I have found out to my cost.