x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

After Amman, Abu Dhabi is a non-smoker's paradise

Nights out in Jordan turn into very brief affairs for a couple spoilt by the UAE's relatively health-conscious tobacco climate.

I turn into a crabby old lady whenever I attempt to go out in Jordan.

This past week, Mr T and I were in Amman visiting my family and celebrating Eid. In between copious amounts of cardamom-infused coffee and pistachio-based Arabic sweets, all consumed in an opulent salon-setting surrounded by a steady stream of well-wishing visitors, the two of us managed to escape one evening to meet up with friends.

I say "one evening" because it was exactly that: a single evening that was really only 30 minutes before I grumbled my way back home. You see, nowhere in Jordan is smoke free, and no one in Jordan is sans cigarette.

This may sound as a gross exaggeration, but I stick by my conviction: compared with Abu Dhabi, Amman is a pungent ashtray.

I have become so spoilt living in the UAE. Despite the continued delay in having the anti-smoking law applied and its bylaws adopted, I can count on one hand the locations in Abu Dhabi that I would immediately avoid because they are poorly ventilated and heavy with toxic smoke, whereas in Amman I cannot think of a single place that is smoke-free and safe to visit wearing your good coat.

I never used to be so affected by smoke. I was as active as I could be on the Amman social scene, flitting from smoke-filled cafe to smoky restaurant, indifferent to second-hand danger, used to airing my clothes after a night out.

But three years in a city where I never have to be near a whiff of nicotine if I choose not to be while still enjoying a plethora of locations to frequent, and where places that allow indoor smoking are so well ventilated that a non-smoker can still breathe without exerting too much of an effort, have mollycoddled me.

In Amman, 30 minutes into an outing with friends, at what I understood to be the most popular bar in town, I began gasping for air. I turned to Mr T, wanting to beg him to leave. But there was a sickly green tinge to his skin.

"I know you want to see your friends," he said, "but please, I can't breathe in here. Do you think you're ready to go?"

We left, and decided to head to one of my favourite haunts for a salad that has me salivating whenever I think of it. How bad could the smoking be in a restaurant, we thought. People are there to eat, not smoke.

Yeah, right. Coughing and hacking, we were out of there before our order had made it to the kitchen. Even after two days of airing the clothes we had been wearing, the reek of cigarette smoke was still as noticeable as if we were smokers ourselves, and I refused to go out anywhere else, instead choosing to spend our Jordan vacation parked on my family's couch.

My poor husband is beginning to realise that visiting Amman is never going to be an opportunity for us to sample restaurants and visit cafes and explore everything the city has to offer. We'll just have to do that in Abu Dhabi instead.

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