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Raindrops keep falling on my head... - By Rebecca Wicks

It’s kind of strange when it rains in Dubai. We’re not exactly sure how to handle it. I’ve just seen more than one facebook status read “Jamie/Jessica/Helen is � loving the rain.” It’s confusing actually. I catch myself thinking such things as “Aah, how nice it is to see that lovely grey sky, how beautiful the puddles look, gleaming amongst the construction equipment.” These thoughts, as I think them, make me laugh out loud. Because put an English rainstorm lasting more than hour above this city and it wouldn’t be lovely at all. We’d probably all just sink.

As a Brit I’m supposed to hate the rain. It ruins everything. It stops you going out, it makes the colour in your cheap jeans run and turns your legs navy blue. It accompanies such nasties as cold, wind, fog and train crashes and it creates mud, which totally destroys your suede shoes. As a Brit, I grew up thinking rain was the enemy, and sunshine a friend who visited as briefly and rarely as a generous Auntie from a land far away, who brought with her ice-creams and buckets and spades and trips to theme parks. Such things I never experienced enough to take for granted. But I remember basking in the rays between the rain showers and wishing I could stay that way always.

Soon enough though, as with everything that never goes away, sun became part of the scenery. Here we never have to wake up shivering on a Saturday morning and hope that our weekend plans aren’t spoiled by the weather. And pretty soon, perhaps upon waking up with a stinking headache and even worse breath, we start to miss the fact that it would be perfectly acceptable to hide away all day in the dark. Rain was actually quite convenient, when we really didn’t need a reason to leave our houses at all. And albeit for a very short time, this December we can take advantage of the fact that right here, in what’s essentially the desert, we can crawl back to bed and not feel guilty for wasting a lovely sunny day.

Of course, rain in Dubai is a nice change for some, but for the most part it’s actually pretty bad. Which leads me back to the sinking part. Well, I’m not sure anyone’s actually sunk because of a sudden downpour in this part of the world, but two people died in separate accidents earlier this year because of incessant rain that nobody was quite prepared for. Homes, cars and buildings in ultra sandy areas have suffered hugely thanks to uncontrollable weather and a lack of drains to handle it.

Back in January over 500 accidents were reported in Dubai, as heavy rain lashed the UAE and caused absolute chaos. Floods and traffic jams across Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah and Ajman meant hundreds of people couldn’t get home and I even had a couple of friends who slept in their offices and cars! For those who haven’t experienced Dubai’s traffic when the sun’s out� well, you can’t really imagine what it’s like when the heaven’s open. One friend reported that it took her two hours to travel 1.5 km across the Al-Qouz industrial area of Dubai. She sent photos of people wading waist-deep in water alongside vehicles, stuck fast. Another said it took five hours to reach his office in Jabel Ali, from Sharjah. You could fly to Nepal in less time than that, from Sharjah. I know because I’m doing it tomorrow (just thought I’d stick that in there).

Last Friday, the minimum temperature reached as low as 19 degrees celsius in the centre of Dubai. I had to wear a cardigan. It was quite disturbing. I had to search my drawers for something with sleeves before heading to the Rugby 7s on Saturday and on the way there, as the lines on Sheikh Zayad Road turned invisible beneath an inch of water, I realized that perhaps I hadn’t missed the rain as much as I thought I had. As the water bounced beneath the cars I stared out at the Emirates Towers, a darker grey than normal, with none of the normal shimmer in their windows. They looked miserable. I felt miserable. I was worried my tan might fade before Christmas. I was afraid my photos would be ruined by storm clouds instead of a bright blue sky. I was terrified for a moment that my building might be swallowed by a sudden mudslide, and that my flat mate might just disappear in quicksand.

I think some folk from wetter climes might profess to miss the rain a little too much, and to love it when it re-appears so miraculously in a place like this. I was one of them. But I remember the feeling I got when I was small, when that generous Auntie arrived from the skies as a key to ice-creams, buckets and spades and theme parks. She never stayed long and was gone in a flash. I never even really got to know her. But I’m kind of glad she visits me more frequently, now that I’ve moved to her country.

Posted: 04 December 2008

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