What’s it like out there?
FOR FOUR YEARS, I lived in a land without weather. Every day, I would wake up to bright blue panels of sky, which existed in perfect harmony with the orange of the sand around us and the turquoise waters of the Gulf. The sun would rise at around 6:15AM, and it would set twelve hours later. Between October and March, the temperature would sit between an ever comfortable 16- to 25-degrees. Life was less pleasant during the summer, when the heat would climb to an unbearable 45 degrees, but I was hardly ever there then.
Clouds were a rare sighting. I would often joke about how the “game developers” had remembered to turn on the cloud function that morning. Most days, the blue of the sky would be uninterrupted until the horizon, where it faded into an exceptional light gray.
Birds could only be heard singing once every couple of days, and when they did, it was eerie. Not because it wasn’t beautiful, but rather because they sounded too perfect. The bird’s song, whistled joyously, would echo across vast, empty spaces, bounce between sand-colored walls, and scurry through the scant trees. A sound so pristine, so exactly what a bird would sound like, and yet, foreign, so unlike the arid landscape surrounding our lives.
We had wind. We could get a lot of wind, particularly during the “winter” months. In my first year there, I would always have to think twice about wearing a skirt, fearful that it might blow in the walk between classes, or on the way back to my building. I can count a total of three days when the wind picked up enough to be considered a sandstorm. During one such storm, I cranked the air conditioning down as far as it would go, curled up in my bed with my warmest socks, and I pretended I was elsewhere.
The most extraordinary weather would come early in the year. If you were unfortunate enough to be in Abu Dhabi in January, you would be privy to The Great Fog, when, for a day or two, the entire city would be shrouded in a heavy fog that interrupted and inconvenienced everything. This fog would often cause clumsy car accidents, a great batch of cancelled flights, and a day when one felt ever so slightly uneasy, as if you had accidentally woken up in a world upside down.
Rain was celebrated overzealously, though not practically. Centuries ago people would dance to rain for their crops, their livelihood. We were just excited there was a change in the weather. It rains about five or six days a year, on average, and the rain is never more than a gentle spatter. Rain was a respite from the monotony of sun-filled days. Rain was an excuse for nostalgia, a reminder that there was a world outside of our own small community, a world in which we once belonged. Even so, everyone was always rhapsodic about the weather occurrence. One year, I overheard professors complaining about a group of students who insisted—demanded, even—to be let off class to go dance in the year’s first rain.
“Rain was a respite from the monotony of sun-filled days.”
It’s odd, this, the changing weather. It wasn’t artificial, per say, but it also wasn’t what everyone else believes to be natural. A year ago, I moved to a city with more “traditional” weather patterns, and I must say that I don’t know what to do with them. I realize now that I took the comfort of regularity for granted, a kind of weather routine.
Winter has been a real nightmare. How does one protect oneself from an onslaught of frozen water from above? How many sweaters is appropriate to wear? What makes a winter coat a good winter coat? I can never figure out what to wear when the sky is overcast. A raincoat? Where does one buy impermeable shoes? Over four years, my wardrobe dwindled to only what suited an eternal spring.
I guess I could say that I spent four years living in a utopian landscape. Perhaps it was dystopian, but it really depends on whom you ask. ❖