‘Nice weather yes?’ Omar said as he came alongside me at the window of the Ministry. I stared out across the city from the 7th floor, towers, embassies and houses all mired in damp, overhung with clouds while the cars weaved between gathering puddles. ‘I’ll go to the desert this afternoon’ he added.
Qataris love a cloud. They enthuse about the weather in London. They take pictures of rain, smiling with wonder. It is their snow. The streets become flooded emphasising the lack of drainage and that the roads are not built level. Water gathers in the huge diverts. A day later and it’s all evaporated away and the weather begins to heat up again firstly to a beautiful day followed by the inevitable plateaus.
‘That’s winter over then!” A Qatari said this to me on about January the 7th. The weather here has 2 seasons; cooler and hotter. The only real change is the temperature. The sky looks the same throughout. In winter it will drop to the high teens with the occasional drop below 10C on a particuarly cold day. But that’s only for a day or two, then it returns to normal, a slow shift up or down until the summer heights. The highest I’ve seen was 53C one lunch time. That was in the shade. The heat itself I find bareable. It’s the wind that comes with it whistling down your throat, drying you out. At night the humidity comes but at least the temperature is only in the high-30s.
We get the occasional sandstorm, reddened clouds whipped in from Saudi. They carpet everything in dust, yet more dust. Dust on dust. Dubai, the tourist image of the Middle East sells itself as a paradise of beaches and shopping. If you like endless malls full of wandering people then great. If you don’t mind traffic and moronic drivers even better. And if you can handle state-sanctioned feudal hierarchy whereby people are brought in to serve masters then it might be the place for you.
Coming here in summer tell you the fuller story of the relentless weather in the region from May to September. Daily temperature of 40C become normal. Life involves fleeing from one air-con area to another and weekend activity becomes limited. Gulf Arabs flee to Europe, mostly London to sit in the parks and shisha cafes of Edgeware Road. The roads in the Gulf are noticeably quieter, life is more sedate for those who stay.
Ramadan is usually in summer. Imagine fasting for a month during those temperatures and being unable to drink water between sunrise and sundown. Fasting itself is said to be healthy. Fasting in the Gulf is tough. Fasting in Norway where the sun is always up is ridiculous! With those kind of stresses, it’s understandable the perception of the weather is wholly different in the Gulf. Having to live in air-con is no cold comfort.
But for now it’s a perfect day here. I’ll be seeing you….outside.