It’s no secret that Friday in the UAE is not my favourite day. The first day of the weekend here – and the Islamic holy day of rest – Friday can be a difficult day for several reasons (one of which is rather embarrassing and I’m not even sure if I can divulge!).
Fridays usually start at a very early hour, with a wake-up call from my kids, who seem to rise earlier on a Friday than any other day. They leap out of bed full of glee and immediately need things. Milk, play-dough, the train simulator game on the computer … None of it can wait and the two-year-old literally pulls the duvet off and prizes my eye lids open.
I know this will change as they become more independent – my friend with three slightly older kids told me they let her and her husband lie in for ages at the weekend, once even taking a photo of something they were building so their parents could see it without having to get out of bed. But for now, in our household, there’s no mercy on a Friday morning (so you’d better not be nursing a hangover as well).
Aside from missing family back home and the lack of structure/school/husband (if he’s flying) that Friday brings – meaning there’s another 14 hours or so between the human alarm clock and a break (ie, bedtime) – another gripe about Friday is everywhere is packed. With temperatures in the 40s and 70 per cent humidity at the moment, the malls are crazy busy. I know lots of people who, not liking crowds, stay home on Friday afternoons.
This Friday, I had a plan and I was rather pleased with myself. I’d booked tickets for the kids and myself to see the play of one of our favourite books, Room on the Broom. What a great alternative to the play area, I thought. But, while very good, it was, of course, all over in an hour and then we needed another activity so ended up at the jam-packed play area anyway.
Putting the kids to beds that night and hoping we could talk about the play while looking at the book (what was I thinking!), BB told me: “I don’t want to read Room on the Broom. I’m bored of it.” Then he continued, “I wish Miss Romana (his class’s teaching assistant) was my mum.”
“Oh, why’s that?” I asked.
“Because she’s taller than you. And younger.”
And, it turns out, that wasn’t my only misdemeanour this weekend! DH got really sick, with strep throat, which I’d had earlier in the week. It gave me an awful sore throat, but DH somehow managed to mutate it into a man-version that went down his legs, gave him terrible chills and sent him to bed. My brother-in-law caught man-strep too, prompting DH to ask me:
“Have you heard of Typhoid Mary?”
“We could call you strep throat Marianne.”
As for my confession about Friday, it stems from the fact that we’re so very spoilt the rest of the week, you see. Here in Dubai, it’s very easy to become dependent on having help at home. In our defence, it can be a challenging environment – the climate is hostile in summer so we’re stuck indoors, sandstorms dump sand everywhere, and no one has any family support. Help at home is a perk most expats enjoy.
Then on Fridays it’s withdrawn, abruptly. Even the two-year-old feels it, especially if DH is away, and sits outside Catherine the Great’s room hoping she’ll come back!
● The weekend here used to be Thursday and Friday, changing in 2006 to Friday and Saturday to bring the UAE more in line with the rest of the world. In several other parts of the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen), the weekend is still Thurs-Fri. It still feels a little strange going back to work and school on Sunday.
● The Friday brunch is something of an institution among expats in Dubai. It’s basically Sunday lunch transferred to a Friday, but with a lot more excess. The city’s hotels and restaurants throw their doors open for lavish brunches, with free-flowing booze and buffet tables straining under the weight of so much delicious food.
● Every Friday at noon, Muslims go to the mosque for Friday prayers and the city erupts with noise as the mosques broadcast their sermons on loud speakers. If you’re parked anywhere near a mosque at this time, you will get blocked in as people flock to Friday prayers, leaving their cars on the pavement, on the sand, and in every available space.