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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.
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