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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Oops, We Did It Again

We thought we had sworn off cat fostering...

But then, there we were, taking an innocent stroll through the streets of Khalidiyah, when we came across a purebred Birman, looking so out of place – no street posse (cats find little packs to hang with here) and little street smarts (oblivious to car traffic) – that by the time we got home John and I pretty much convinced ourselves that if we were able to scoop up ‘Fluffy,’ we’d have him cleaned  up and rehomed in no time.

So day after day, John has been walking past the location where we first met up with Fluffy on his way to work. Despite one or two sightings, every time we went around with our rescue cat carrier we’ve come up empty, unable to locate the elusive Fluffy despite the sightings and encouragements of local shop workers and neighborhood folk.

Then on Thursday, as we headed out for the evening, a young sprite of a kitten came bounding at us right outside our own building.

“Oh crap,” I said.

Because this kitten had all the telltale signs of being recently unencumbered by its human. She was clean, super friendly and (worst of all) blissfully ignorant of the dangers nearby -- namely the highly trafficked parking lot right outside our door and the bus stop where a kitten underfoot might not fare too well.  With Fluffy our main focus and running late to meet up with friends, we quickly put out some food and water, gave the kitten a little ear rub and went on our way and decided we’d figure it out if we came home and she was still there... 

She wasn’t.

But yesterday, after another failed attempt at finding Fluffy, we came back to the apartment, with empty cat carrier in hand, and there she was – the little kitten sitting in front of our apartment building door, looking as if she was just waiting for us.

“What are we going to do?” I asked John, as if I didn't already know the answer.

After a few cheek rubs, John suggested I go upstairs and bring down some more kitten food. But this 'little babe' (as my cousin would say) already knew the score. Forgoing the cat carriers, she strode right into the building walking right past the security desk. Then with little hesitation, she stepped onto the elevator, barely flinching as the elevator doors closed and we headed up. At that point we had no other option than to invite her in for lunch…

Less than ten minutes later she had cleaned off her plate (as well as Mido and Tessa’s), had a long drink of water, and helped herself to the litter box. Then just like a little Goldilocks, she then settled down for a nap…

'And this one was just right.'
Over the past year and a half, we’ve helped get two kitties off the street (and sadly put one kitty out of her misery when she was hit by a car in front of our building – RIP little girl). It’s not much, just check out The Cat Man of Abu Dhabi. Many cat people here do far more, but we do what we can, including feeding the cats on the Corniche -- trying to keep it all manageable and Mido and Tessa content. It’s also never easy for me to give these little loves up (there are many tears on my part), but our resident cats Mido and Tessa are pretty clear about their feelings of another permanent kitty in their brood. Besides, when I hear stories about our rescues in their new homes, it fills my heart. One kitty would have ended up trying to survive in an underground car park. She now lives with a family who is crazy about her in Dubai. The other was trying her best to stand her ground on a small patch of grass on one of Abu Dhabi’s busiest intersections. She is now living on Saadiyat with a cool young cat mom, complete with an outdoor terrace.  

For now, we are calling our latest foster friend Patchi, because of the unique dark patches on her pristine white body, and because she was found outside of the Patchi 'boutique chocolate shop,' while we get her health checks in order and find her a home. We’re also still keeping an eye out for Fluffy and have resigned ourselves to the possibility of setting up a small halfway house for kittens if we need (one stray per bedroom). 

I guess it's all part of being a crazy cat lady in Abu Dhabi. And it goes without saying, if you'd like to adopt Patchi, just drop us a line (free shipping for the folks at home!). :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Expat Paparazzi

One of the strangest phenomena of the Abu Dhabi ex-pat experience is what I call the 'Expat Paparazzi.'

At first I wasn't sure if this was something borne out of an overall society trend of posting everything we do on social media, or as one of Dubai's top travel marketers explained to me as "having to constantly justify our decision to live here to the people back home." 

Whatever the reason, I was, and still am, astounded at the number of pictures taken whenever a group of expats get together (particularly, but not exclusively, with women). 

Go for coffee with new expat friends? Snap a photo! Go for coffee with old expat friends? Snap a photo! 

Yoga class? Snap! 

Tuesday morning golf? Snap! 

Pool date? Mani-Pedi? Book club gathering? Snap! Snap! Snap!

Sure, at first I saw the excitement. “We’re in a new place! Doing new things! With new-found friends!” But after a while, any time somebody called out to me to gather for a photo, my eyes began to roll. 

"Not this again," I thought. 

At first I assumed this was a sign that my inner jaded New Yorker was clouding my bright, shiny, new expat exterior. That said, I kind of understood it. Despite all the comforts and unusual number of similarities to home, the reality is that living in the UAE *is* an exotic, less than one-percent of the world's population kind of experience (especially if you stick around for the summer... and Ramadan). And there are mosques and camels and palm trees and things that, after awhile, don't feel so extraordinarily foreign when you live here day-to-day, but do make for extraordinary photo displays 'for the people back home.'

But posing for a group photo after going to see a movie??? (I mean, come on, right?!)

Recently, however, I began to have a different view on the whole Expat Paparazzi thing.

You see, now that I'm about a year and a half in to our 'new' life in Abu Dhabi, the never-ending turnover of the place is starting to have its effect on me. When I first arrived, I found the transitional nature of the place surprising, but refreshing. I knew no one, and that brought freedom to me because for the first time in twenty-five years, I was a blank sheet of paper. As a person who lived her life up until that point looking for ways to stake roots, here I was among an entire community of people who didn’t like to see grass grow under their feet. It was eye-opening, awe-inspiring, electric.

But this summer it happened. Those people who I started out with in Abu Dhabi were suddenly packing up and leaving. For some, it was planned and we saw it coming for months. For others, it wasn't planned, necessarily, but part of a chosen way of life as an expat. Simply put, a new, more lucrative offer had come their way. And for others, just like anywhere, you just never know when you'll wake up and walk into the boss's office and say, ‘enough,’ or when the work just won’t be there any longer. Unfortunately in the UAE, there's no such thing as waiting around for another opportunity. Without work, you are politely pointed to the exit sign, so you quickly, (and for the most part) quietly pack your bags and move on. 

In the past three months I have 'lost' about a dozen fabulous women from my core group in Abu Dhabi to their new outposts and adventures. In fact, I have lost so many people that I don’t even have a core group anymore! (Ha!)  

In some ways I feel like the kid whose mom forgot to sign her up for summer camp. If I'm honest, it’s been a rather dull summer, and I keep waiting for everyone to come back, only to remind myself that that won’t be happening. And sure, I’ve used my quiet time wisely, regrouping on my goals (for the umpteenth time), sticking with the golf and screenwriting. 

So now when it comes to the 'Expat Paparazzi,' and someone jumps up and wants to take a group photo, I'll understand the meaning of it more. I realize that maybe it's not about the social media and the 'look at me, look at me' aspect of it, but of the fleetingness and the 'here and now' of it.

Because those fast-found friends, the ones I was laughing like teenagers and swinging golf clubs with? The ones with the itchy feet who are so full of life and adventure that they've broken me wide open to new possibilities in my own life? The ones who I’d never likely befriend in NYC, but who have proven to be the greatest of allies and have shown me new ways to look at my world? Well, those fabulous people may not be here next year, next month or sometimes next week.  

Or maybe, I will be the one with the itchy feet and be next to move on.

So, from here on in, I’m embracing the Expat Paparazzi.

I’ll be the one throwing myself in the middle of the group photos. Snap!

I’ll be the one smiling big for the cellphone camera. All six iPhones at a time. Snap! Snap! Snap!

I’ll be the one looking around and taking in -- really taking in -- the people I'm sharing the moment with. Snap!

And not just here in Abu Dhabi. When I visit home and spend time with my nearest and dearest peeps, too. Snap! Snap!

And sure, my Facebook newsfeed may run over with group photos this fall. But that whole part of it doesn't matter so much anymore. I won't be as embarrassed about it as I have been in the past. It reminds me of a time several years ago (when I was using a Polaroid), when a friend told me that if I wanted to make friends with someone else, all I had to do was take a picture with them. 

"It’s not about the photo," she said, "but the moment shared."


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ramadan Redux

I can hardly believe it myself, but not only is it my second Ramadan in the UAE, but I’m already finding we’re halfway through the Muslim holy month.

It’s strange what a difference a year makes. Last year during Ramadan I found myself nervous about the whole event. There was a sort of self-consciousness on my part about not fully understanding Ramadan, a feeling of sticking out as a Westerner, and a constant worry about making a giant gaff. I even had dreams about committing a Ramadan faux pas. In it I am struck over the head with a blunt object, only to wake up and find myself drinking water and dressing immodestly and ending up in Ramadan jail. For the record, there is no such thing as Ramadan jail, though the leering look of observers can be punishment enough so people need to be and are very mindful in these parts). 

A date and camel's milk is the traditional
way to break one's fast during Ramadan
And while my self-consciousness has pretty much abated, Ramadan does still remind me that I am a minority here. That’s not to say that I’m the only tall blonde shiksa in Abu Dhabi – believe me, we’re a dime a dozen. But when three-quarters of your community is observing a month-long fast, you feel it. You feel it in the flow of the day, in the demeanor of the people (ALL people, not just those fasting) and you feel empathy for what people might be going through.

With the focus off myself, I’ve found that I have a much keener sense of the hunger among my Muslim neighbors this year than I did last year.  

There were the first days when I was out with my running club and all along the Corniche (a waterside promenade that is a popular gathering place for everyone in the city), workers such as taxi cab drivers, security guards and well-heeled Arab families set up both simple and lavish picnic Iftar meals, waiting for the sundown call to prayer to break the fast. No matter who you were (my running group was waiting to be able to drink water), the sense of anticipation was palpable as people gazed at the sunset. Of course, it was the runners who guzzled fast and furiously when the prayer finally started a bit after 7 p.m..

Then there’s the security guard in my building. A burly and devout Muslim man, as I pop in and out of the building throughout the day I see how his look and demeanor change as the daytime hours wear on. The bright morning greeting turns to a mere grunt and nod as his eyes sink into his hungry head. By late afternoon I do my best to avoid him.

There was also the evening when John and I pulled up to a popular hotel for a quick bite before a movie and outside in front, cars were practically left abandoned in the porte cochere as those observing the fast bee-lined for the massive Iftar buffets in a specially constructed Ramadan tent that can be as opulent, popular and well-attended as the famed Dubai brunches (minus one very noticeable feature -- alcohol).

Waiting for the sun to set in Al Ain
But once that sundown call to prayer arrives, it’s feast time. While the fast is recommended to be broken with a glass of camel’s milk and a date, followed by a larger meal a bit later, extended families gather in the nighttime hours, coworkers mingle at corporate-sponsored Iftar tents at the posh five-star hotels, and even the tiny storefront kebab shops in our neighborhood stay open late and do brisk trade (for instance, the local Kentucky Fried Chicken stays open until 4 a.m., many other places are open until 2 a.m.). 

In fact, our local newspaper reports that a local hospital is currently seeing up to 50 patients in their emergency rooms each evening during Ramadan. Of course, it’s not the fasting that’s driving them to the ER, it’s the gluttony that follows – eating too much, too quickly.   

Now that I’m in my Ramadan groove, I try to avoid everything from about 3 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.  -- in the same way I always avoided rush hour on the subways while living in NYC. Driving on the roads is dangerous – what with the road rage and exhausted drivers drifting in and out of the lanes.  Even just walking the streets can be tough. Seeing people so obviously hungry, tired and worn out makes me want to reach out and give people a hug (and slip them a candy bar, though that would not be looked upon positively). Then there’s the hubs, who seems to have to partake in the fast as collateral damage for working during Ramadan. While work hours are shorter and there are special places for non-Muslims to eat in the office, many people just take the time off. Not John, and unfortunately he doesn’t come prepared to get through the day (nearly all restaurants are shuttered during the day). In other words, I don’t send him off in the morning packed with a sandwich (bad wifey).

As for me, I keep a low profile and stick to the outer edges of the community. I spend the days writing (I finished a screenplay draft!), check out the very few places I can go for lunch, play lots of golf (mainly for the post-golf clubhouse dining) and despite my best efforts of using Ramadan to do house projects like organizing my clothes closets and cleaning out my computer of old files and trying my hand at painting, I find I slow down my pace just like everyone else.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Our Latest 'Edition'

Khali, the Khalidiya kitten who
once made her home in front of Shining Tower

This is Khali, named after the Abu Dhabi neighborhood we live in and where this little ginger tabby-mau mix was dumped sometime this spring.At least I think she was dumped. As a cat person, I tend to invent wild back stories for the young and not-so-young homeless kittens I've scooped up.

For Mido, his story was simple. He was left in a cardboard box at a construction site in Manhattan. Tessa was a bit more of a mystery. We have absolutely no idea where our 'Taghkanic Kitten' actually appeared from, but there she was one day, climbing up the painter's ladder looking for food and affection (she got both, and then some). We think she had been someone's house cat, then got dumped. By the time she reached us she had worms, ticks, fleas and was nearly starving. Another few weeks and I'm certain with the cold setting in (it was October), she wouldn't have made it.

Then there was Parker, our Abu Dhabi car park kitten, who I decided had hitched a ride in the under carriage of someone's car and was living underground in sweltering heat. After we rescued her she was eventually whisked away to a fabulous life in Dubai. Then there was Street Cat, who didn't live long enough for us to name her (she had been run over by a car in our neighborhood and had severe internal damages). :(

Then there is Khali. John and I spotted her on our regular evening walks to 'our local' and John's walk to work. She was adorable, clean and friendlier than most street cats. We attempted to take her in once, but she freaked out at the sight of the carrier. Since she made her home on one of the busiest street corners in Abu Dhabi (with just a small patch of grass), we were afraid of her running into traffic to get away from us.

So we let her be, and stopped by to feed her regularly.

And so did a lot of other people.

Which is kind of the amazing thing about Abu Dhabi. People take care of the street cats. Not necessarily picking them all up and taking them home, but leaving food near their buildings, bringing food on walks to feed them, and just generally being kind to all creatures. Unfortunately, there are also horror stories about animal abuse, usually by children here who have never been exposed to cats, or pets, but that's another post for another time.

But with Khali, what we saw was that she seemed to be really well fed.

Because she kept getting bigger.

And bigger. And bigger.

(What we didn't realize, is that she was pregnant.)

Then she disappeared. I'd look for her on her street corner in the cool of the evening and wonder where she went. After three days of this, something told me to go out and look for her...

So I went out to the area where she was usually spotted and there, along the shady side of a building, someone had placed down a cardboard box for her to give birth to her kittens. There were remnants of food and a small dirty bowl of water. There were also three dead kittens, and two barely hanging on. And Khali had one freaked out teenage mom look on her face. She is, afterall, still a kitten herself (probably about seven months old).

I immediately called John and asked him what I should do. His motto is that we do the right thing by these animals, so we scooped her up and her two little survivors and went to the vet. Once she checked out okay, we took her home. Unfortunately, the two newborns didn't make it.

But Khali is doing well.

We are trying to help get her acquainted with our posse, which is proving a challenge. My back story for Khali is that she had a home once, but someone got tired of her or saw she was pregnant and tossed her out. I suspect her earlier home was not a happy place, just yesterday she recoiled when I emptied the dishwasher and was brandishing a metal spoon in my hand.

So she's affectionate, but wary. According to the cat websites, she is probably a 'stray' (meaning once having home) vs feral. And with our cats, she's making great strides in getting more comfortable, but she's got a way to go before we can feel she is not going to get all aggressive with our main kitties now and again as she tries to figure out her place here.

Once we can settle her down a bit (teach her to be more comfortable with us, and with our other cats), we'll look to re-home her. She's got wonderful potential and as all the websites tell us, this stuff just takes time. Hopefully getting her spayed next week will also help.

So send good vibes our way for this little one as we continue to try to do the right thing by her.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Excess Baggage: The Reality of Expat Luggage

It was about a year ago when I flew over the Arabian Gulf and landed at the International Airport to do a recognizance tour of Abu Dhabi.

Having escaped the polar vortex plaguing NYC and stepping off the jet into 80 degree warmth and streaming sunshine, I reminded myself not to tell the hubs I was already sold on the place. By the time I reached baggage claim, the day-dreaming had started when I spotted a woman who, based on her English accent, subtle tan, and inordinate amount of luggage -- was obviously an Expat wife.

Looking at the suitcases piled so high on her cart that they reached over her nose, I imagined them filled with fabulous fashions -- Pucci dresses for day and sparkling Vera Wangs for night. I imagined designer golf gear and yoga pants with brand names only fit to be worn by people like Victoria Beckham. I imagined that that would be soon be me, a glamorous Expat wife crisscrossing the globe with my fabulous life tucked in a trunk… a Louis Vuitton trunk, at that. I envisioned dazzling pool parties, epic brunches, decadent evenings in five-star hotel ballrooms. Truth be told, I may have even entertained the thought of having an occasion to wear a tiara. Yes, a tiara...

Fast forward a few months, after I shut down my life in NYC and began to settle in to my new Abu Dhabi existence and spent a few weeks of indulging in the ritual of the “flight of the Expat wife” (when non-working expat housewives head out of the Sandpit to enjoy the cooler summer temperatures of the UK and USA), I was back at John F. Kennedy Airport with three large pieces of luggage filled to brim to check-in. The conversation with the ticket agent went something like this:

“Do you have any dangerous liquid or anything flammable in your bag?”





“Definitely not.”

“How about car parts?”

“Car parts?”

“Yes, car parts.”

“Well… as a matter of fact…”

Yep, not ball gowns. My bags were running over with car parts.

I won’t get specific here, but the parts were very much questionable, and I would end up spending the next hour or so with the TSA fellas getting my bags and their contents pre-cleared before the airline would approve taking them onboard.

Standing with the TSA, I found myself in the awkward position of not only explaining my car parts, but also feeling judged by obvious lack of dress gowns (and tiaras) that were making room for far more important things like:
  • Three cases of cat food (that’s 72 cans, people!),
  • Liquid concentrated chicken and beef stock (because the canned stuff is absent here),
  • My favorite cooking pan,
  • My oversized Starbucks insulated coffee cup for iced coffee,
  • My cheap but oh-so-awesome vegetable slicer-dicer doohickey,
  • An array of vitamins and health supplements,
  • Six sticks of deodorant (hey, you get stinky in the Sandpit!)
  • My big fluffy winter slippers (because the air conditioning is hell on my always cold feet),
  • A pair of salt and pepper shakers I bought from the Duty Free trolley on our trip home from Australia… That look like rocks (don't ask).
…And an England hat.

The reality of my excess Expat baggage.
What kind of life these TSA guys must have pieced together from this stash was almost laughable. 

And yet, this is reality of the excess baggage of the expat housewife.

John always tells me as I begin to spin into a panic about luggage and being able to get everything in, “If you forget something, you can always get it there.”

And indeed, Abu Dhabi does have EVERYTHING…

Except our cat’s favorite flavor of Fancy Feast…

…and I don’t seem to be able to cook meals as well in any other skillet than my beloved pan…

…and that vegetable slicer? We go way back.

There are just things, little touchstones from home, that after being out here in the expat world, when you reconnect with them you find you suddenly just can’t live without. It’s like the scene from THE JERK, when Steve Martin announces he’s going to leave his wife and all his worldly belongings for a simpler life:

And while one of the things we did when we left NY was to get rid of the clutter and commit to living a more ‘minimalist’ life, there are just… things… that are hard to live without.

So now when we go back and forth, we end up packing as light as we can and putting in an extra bag so we (or rather, I) can bring back those beloved items that make me feel a bit more connected to my life at home.
  • My favorite wool sweater, ratty fleece and ripped shorts for house-lounging;
  • That running club t-shirt with the NYC reference that once had little meaning but now speaks volumes to others about who I am;
  • My most favorite dog-eared writing books.
Of course, the problem becomes what will go back when the time comes...  

We recently attempted to purchase a cocktail bar (it didn't fit in our elevator) from a couple who had lived in Abu Dhabi for seven years but whose contract -- and thus time -- in the Sandpit were up.

When I went to check out the bar, the place was filled with a heavy cloud of emotion. I was greeted by a teary-eyed woman who escorted me through a villa full of the remnants of still palpable memories of her UAE life. Book cases filled with travel guides to ‘far off’ places like India, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Jordan – all a mere puddle-jump away. Rugs and kilims from Turkey, Iran and the carpet souq down the block. Camping gear for desert excursions among dunes and camels a mere hour’s drive away.  A shisha pipe. The dark wood, well-worn bar. 

“We had many great parties with this bar,” she said. “So many friends… we celebrated… everything.”

At that moment, I wished I had had that tiara to place upon this woman’s head. Even without an evening gown in sight, to me she was a belle of the expat ball, having spent her time in the region embracing all it offered -- and digging in the emotional dirt of living fully in a very temporary space.

Despite my lack of ball gowns and party frocks, I realize even if my bags are packed full with mundane items like cat food tins, skincare products and car parts (yes, car parts!), life at the moment is BIG! And there would always be baggage of some sort to deal with.

It’s not just part of the expat life. It’s part of ANY life.

It just goes with the territory.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Foggy Abu Dhabi!

It’s Fog Season in Abu Dhabi!

I had no idea what ‘fog season’ was. Here I was drifting along and marking time by glorious sunny day after glorious sunny day, when suddenly one morning I woke to pull back the drapes and revealed a wall of fog so thick outside my window, I couldn't see the street twelve stories below.

A room with no view: Abu Dhabi's famed Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel

When I first got to Abu Dhabi, I thought I was moving to a place where I would, for the most part, enjoy perpetual summer. After one of the most hellish winters anyone in the Northeast US had ever experienced (hello, Polar Vortex!), I was ready for life in the sun, with just one season, and with the only real difference being the change in temperature. Turns out though, that just like Eskimos have fifty-plus words to describe anything from wet to powdery snow and from sleety to icy snow, you can also break Abu Dhabi’s perpetual summer down not just in to ‘hot,’ ‘really hot,’ and 'really effing hot,' but into seasons within the season of constant heat.

For instance, when I first arrived, it was March. And it was summer. The kind of summer we are used to in the Northeast United States. It was in the mid-80s and not humid. It was, in a word, wonderful. In more than one word it was glorious, heavenly and wonderful and I was the happiest girl on Earth having to make the choice each day of whether to wile away the daytime hours at the beach, or on the golf course... or both.

Then came June, and the only way I could find to describe the heat in late June, July and August in Abu Dhabi is by referencing the whole “This One Goes To Eleven” bit from THIS IS SPINAL TAP. 

As you could imagine, the heat in Abu Dhabi goes to eleven come the summer months, topping out at anywhere between 125 and 130 degrees and making you seriously worry about the real possibility of spontaneous combustion. I have a vivid recollection of walking to meet a friend for lunch, less than a ten minute walk away. Halfway there, while standing on the median of the road hiding in the shade of a street sign waiting to make my way across three lane of traffic, I began to wonder whether I should turn back. Truth was I wasn’t really sure I could actually make it on foot without dropping dead on the way. Even worse, if you decide to take the car then you worry that the tires might melt. (I'm not even kidding.)

But then… September arrives. Relief, right? Well, sure, if you just measure things by temperature and not humidity. Because September’s humid season in Abu Dhabi is akin to what T.S. Eliot wrote about the month of April. The cruelest month, September in Abu Dhabi has the ability to break one’s spirit, because just when you think the temperatures have subsided and life is going to be bearable again, the humidity wooshes in to extend the misery. This is the season of wondering what the point is of showering only to step out and feel completely soaked. It's the season of sapped energy. And the season of fogged up window panes... and spectacles.

This is what 100 percent humidity looks like.
Come October, though, and things get better. Legend has it that once three sandstorms have passed through, the Gulf goes back to the glorious temperatures that make going to the beach heavenly. And really, it’s heaven straight through until… well, until now, Fog Season.

It’s early January and it’s embarrassing to say this, but, it feels a bit chilly. I know I’m being a baby, especially seeing photos of snow storms back home, but even more so because I’m putting on a fleece and whining about the cold -- when it’s 75 degrees outdoors. Even worse, I’ve become that person who puts on the seat warmers in the car when it’s 68 degrees out at 8 a.m. (though I’ve always been a sucker for seat warmers, even in August, so maybe it's just a good excuse).

But the wall of fog, is well, pretty wonderful, as long as you don’t have anyplace really important to go. Driving can be treacherous and there are terrible accidents due to low visibility along the E11 road that links Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Flights get cancelled again and again and again. Still, I love it. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s nice to have a break from the endless string of sunny days. It makes for amazing views and photos.

Plus, it's just nice to know that Abu Dhabi is more than some one-season, one-heat wonder. 

Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque, barely visible through the fog.