Hot as Hades
October 10, 1993
Abu Dhabi, UAE
We deplaned in Abu Dhabi around midnight on September 1 after a nine-hour flight. Walking into the 40 C heat was like walking into a brick wall. As we made our way through the duty free, the passport clearance, and customs, I felt certain the airport air conditioning must not be working.
Then we stepped outside...
The full weight of the heat and humidity hit. When I realized the airport had actually been cool compared with the outdoors, I began to worry. I wondered if I would melt into an anonymous blob on the sidewalk before Bobby managed to flag down a taxi amidst the chaos of double-parked vehicles, screaming porters, stunned-looking newly arrived expats (myself included), and trolleys full of over-stuffed suitcases, boxes, and bags.
If it was this hot at midnight, what kind of hell would we face in the noonday sun? Well, it was hot as Hades. But surprisingly, it didn't take long to acclimatise.
This evening as I walked into our apartment building, the Indian doorman and I chatted, and agreed that yes indeed, it had been a bit nippy this morning and wasn't it nice to finally feel a chill in the air after the swelter of summer? After all, the temperature only climbed to 37 C today... It's amazing how quickly one acclimatizes to the heat, despite its intensity.
Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined myself describing anything above 30 C as cool! And I certainly wouldn't have thought it possible a little over a month ago as we stood sweating only seconds after we stepped out of the Abu Dhabi airport.
It’s Raining! (Or is it?)
Of course we don't spend a lot of time outside, other than at the beach or by the pool or walking from the apartment to a vehicle (our own or a taxi), and from vehicle to shop, supermarket, bar, restaurant, or back into the apartment, all of which are air conditioned.
Living here without A/C from May through September would be unthinkable, at least for me! Apparently the temperatures can surpass 50 C during a really hot spell. The warmest we saw before the temperatures started dropping was 45.
The high temperatures are made more uncomfortable by the humidity. It's not unusual to get up in the morning to find all the glass doors to the balcony completely covered in condensation, which runs down the panes just like rain. When you step outside from anywhere air conditioned, your sunglasses immediately fog up from the change in temperature.
An interesting problem with the heat is how to get cold tap water. It doesn't matter how long you run it, the cold-water tap always spews hot water in the summer. We get cool water by turning off the hot water heater in the apartment. Because the tank is in the apartment and the apartment is air conditioned, the water stays relatively cool. So when you want cold water, you turn on the hot water tap and vice versa.
Home Sweet Home
We live in a really nice apartment complex about 10 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi. I just love the architecture of the complex. It comprises three crescent-shaped buildings, with 11, 12 and 13 floors respectively.
The combination of curves, straight lines, stairways, windows and balconies is so visually appealing that I pause to admire it each time I come and go. And the apartments are all accessed by external walkways, which makes them feel less like apartments and more like homes. I like that.
The apartments themselves are comfortable, despite some design flaws, which they all share. For example, the kitchens are tiny, even smaller than the postage-stamp sized one in our Calgary home.
Each apartment is a carbon copy of the next with the exception of differences between the two- and three-bedrooms. The latter have a full bathroom off the master bedroom in addition to the standard one and a half baths with which the two-bedrooms are equipped. Some have beige marble floors, others have black marble floors like ours; some have beige bathroom tiles, while other people suffer with ugly brown ones like we do.
As the buildings themselves are round, each apartment has a unique view depending on its orientation and height. The balconies run the full length of the apartments and are about seven feet wide so there's plenty of room for patio furniture - which we already have - and plants - that I intend to pick up in the next couple of weeks. Everybody gets an allotment of free (!) plants from the municipality, you just have to go and pick them up. Of course the BBQ, which we've already put to good use, is also on the balcony.
Our third-floor flat looks out onto a park full of palm trees, lawn and flowers beds. The turquoise blue water of the Gulf lies a kilometer away on the right, and downtown Abu Dhabi is in the distance on the left. The water is beautiful during the day and I rest my computer-weary eyes by looking up from the screen and out to sea.
Sometimes in the afternoon long sleek racing dhows with bleached bright sails slice their way across the bay to the docks near the Intercontinental Hotel. The slant and triangular shape of the sails makes them look like huge white sharks.
One day I’ll go over to the dockyards to watch the craftsmen build the heavy teak boats that appear so graceful in the water. Bobby went once before I arrived, and says it's fascinating to see the boat builders at work.
In the evening, the city lights and the moon (when there is one), are mirrored in the sea, and we often sit out on the balcony to enjoy the view, and the breeze, with our tea.