Bloggers will know this should be ‘Silent Sunday’, but as Sunday is the first day of the working week in the United Arab Emirates, I’m posting one of my favourite photos a day early. I think the recent sandstorms in Dubai may have left sand on my brain – probably blew in through my ears – because I’m sticking with a desert theme. The Arabian Desert, from which the city of Dubai grew, is truly beautiful – some of it punctuated with shrubs and the odd tree, and some of it absolutely pristine.
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Tags: Arabian desert, beautiful desert, desert, Dubai desert safari, Dubai-Oman border, Hajar Mountains, sand, Silent Sunday, UAE
Categories : Dubai
“Have you been inside?” It was the question on all my neighbours’ lips last week.
“Yes, twice today,” I heard mums reply. “There’s even a pork section,” – met with an intake of breath, a smile and a wide-eyed “Really?”
We were excited, you see, because we’ve waited three years for a grocery store to open in our compound here in Dubai.
Not only does it mean we don’t have to do a 10km loop anymore just to get milk, it also puts our community firmly on the map – quite something when you consider that in 2009, there was very little here.
Located outside the city in the desert, our newly built villas had sand lots for gardens when we moved in. The front- and backyards were, to the boys’ delight, literally giant sandpits.
The houses are painted a lemon colour – and with rolling desert for as far as the eye could see beyond our compound, the first impression was of acres of yellow, set against the brilliant blue of the cloudless sky.
For a long time, the only way in was via a bumpy, pot-holed track that 4by4s could just about handle without falling apart, but meant cars had to pick their way along, dodging craters, at a snail’s pace.
The roads around the compound were still under construction and I remember well the traffic layout changing overnight – a whole roundabout (a huge one!) vanished and everyone driving home the next day got completely and utterly lost.
Our compound wasn’t (and still isn’t) connected to a sewerage system or a mains water supply – poo trucks take sewage away and water trucks deliver desalinated water to a storage tank.
While everyone loved their brand-new villas, it did feel rather far and sparse, and calling a taxi in those days was like directing someone who doesn’t speak English, and is really only pretending they understand you, to a needle in a haystack.
From humble beginnings, our compound has slowly been added to – the swimming pool finally finished (once they worked out how to fill it with no mains water supply), a playarea, gym and dry cleaners opened, as well as a spa offering manis/pedis, massages and hair appointments. The shop took three years because of an electricity supply problem.
Planning is not always Dubai’s strong point.““Get those villas up as fast as possible, fill ‘em with expats and we’ll worry about the utilities later,” must have been the developer’s mantra.
Today, our compound is even looking green as most people have landscaped their gardens, either planting clusters of grass that slowly merged to form a lawn, or rolling out instant-gratification ‘carpet grass’.
When our own grass was planted, in clumps, LB’s hair was just sprouting too and the race was on to see if our lawn or his locks would grow first.
The boys’ disappointment that I longed for grass and flowerbeds was quickly forgotten when they discovered the enormous patch of undeveloped desert just outside our compound, which we often zoom across in the SUV for fun. Perfect for kite-flying, excavating and quad-biking, there’s even a ravine with steep sides that the kids (and DH) slide down, nicknamed the Cliffs of Despair.
So that’s the story of our house built on sand. With the pioneering early days now passed, it feels like this corner of the desert has been well and truly conquered – and with the help of an awful lot of water, the desert has even been turned green.
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Tags: desert compound, gardening in the desert, living in the desert, planting, sand, sandpit, turning the desert green, UAE
Categories : Dubai, Expat
There’s nothing quite like a howling sandstorm outside and the sound of your kids howling and fighting inside to bring you back to reality with a bump.
The stay-at-home or risk-a-crowded-mall forecast for the weekend was for gusting sand to continue buffeting the UAE until Monday – and it gusts everywhere. Step outside, and you inhale sand into your lungs – causing hospital admissions to surge as people with respiratory complaints find themselves gasping for breath.
Blowing sand gets into your ears, in your eyes and up your nostrils. Your scalp feels gritty and your skin is exfoliated by nature’s loofah.
Everything outside is covered with a coating of dust, making the garden look like a scene from the nuclear-war movie Threads and sand even gets indoors, through gaps under doors and air conditioning ducts. Heaven forbid you accidentally leave a window open, and you come home to find the whole room’s been landscaped.
On the roads, visibility is reduced, quite drastically at times, with reports that visibility on one of Dubai’s busiest roads was so low at one point that some drivers had difficulty staying on the motorway. In another part of Dubai, there was so much sand on the road, it was being moved with a bulldozer.
When it’s all over, the blue skies return, as though nothing ever happened, and then the big clean up can begin.
Yes, sometimes it does feel like we’re living in a giant dust ball.
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Tags: sand, sandstorm, shamal, UAE, weather warning
Categories : Dubai, Expat, Weather, Weekend
It was mid-morning when the school sent text messages to all the mums.
I say mums, but ours actually came to DH, as the teachers still seem to think he’s a better bet.
The first words, “The Civil Defence has advised…” were carefully chosen to make sure we sat up and took notice.
“…that students should go home due to the possibility of fumes coming from a fire in the industrial area.”
Of course, this unscheduled evacuation sparked a flurry of text messages and phone calls among the mums – to spread the word that any afternoon plans were toast.
“Have you heard?”
“The kids are coming home!”
“I was planning on an 11am Ashtanga yoga class, followed by a gellish manicure and a triple berry smoothie at the Lime Tree Cafe,” I imagined inconvenienced mums saying. “And the nanny insists on resting in the afternoon, I might actually have to take the kids to Magic Planet.”
My work plans thwarted yet again, we headed out when BB got home – and were plunged straight into our second excitement of the day.
While driving along, the 4WD was suddenly engulfed in a billowing sand storm. One minute the sky was clear and blue, the next minute a yellowish mist had descended, the wind was gusting and there was sand swirling everywhere. Visibility quickly reduced to about an arm’s length.
I was having visions of being swallowed up by the desert, while innocently on our way to watch Horrid Henry. I could see the headline in my mind, ‘Expats vanish in Barsha triangle’
Either that, or we’d get into an accident on the road, which you could hardly see through the thick, fog-like dust.
Thankfully, DH was at the wheel, and noticing that I was clutching my seat, he smiled and said kindly, “Don’t worry, the visibility is at least 50 metres – still legal for landing an airplane.”
Which is precisely why he’s in the right job, while I – my eyes nearly closed by this point – could never do it in a million years.
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Tags: desert, driving, Dubai, fire, sand, sandstorm, storm, weather
Categories : Dubai, Expat, Parenting, Weather