x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Ali Story: Summer in the cities

Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE.

In this serialised feature, Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE


The summer is officially here, so mabrook. Yes, congratulations to all of you who got used to the great hospitality of Arabia by being served delicious dates and Arabic coffee, because it's about time to enjoy them fresh.

I remember when I was a child how my friends and I from the neighbourhood never really paid much attention to the weather, whether it was too cold or hot. It was always great when it rained and yes, we used to roll and jump in to any small pool of water we came across on the streets or in the desert because it was just something you don't experience every day, nor every winter.

But we really enjoyed the summer because we knew it came with a good package. Whenever summer approached, we knew that a vacation was getting close, which meant our parents were going to plan for an overseas trip. I still remember how my three sisters and I would have a few options to choose from, whether we wanted to travel with my mother to visit some of her relatives in the Gulf, or travel with Dad while joining him at one of his summer sport camps.

And even though we had options, it was almost always the same thing: my three sisters would join Mum and I would join Dad, then we would arrange a reunion either at one of our relatives' homes in the Gulf or back in our beloved UAE. For one of my summer trips with my beloved father, he decided that we could go to Sudan then to Egypt and finally to Wahran in Algeria. As usual, I never showed any signs of excitement and I usually based my expectations on how many activities the trip would offer.

We arrived in Sudan and had an amazing time in Khartoum, the capital, and I was so surprised when I learnt that in Sudan they also appreciate camels like us back home. They even have Sudanese camels, and camel herders and so on. (I learnt later that even in the UAE there are people from Sudan who take care of the camels in the UAE for some of the important camel owners in the country.)

What was fascinating about this trip was how people in Sudan showed no signs that they had a problem with the hot sun during the summer. In fact, they appreciated it because heat was needed for many types of plants for their own agricultural purposes. Just like the UAE: we always appreciate the heat because without it, the tasty natural dates wouldn't be ready for harvesting if they did not receive the heat they require.

I remember how my father would say: "Son, winter is lovely, but always appreciate summer. It's where humans belong more."

Now, of course, my father was referring to the acceptable heat temperature and not 40°C and above, but in today's time, it doesn't really matter if it's 40°C or 50°C, since we are always indoors or in our cars and we have air-conditioning, so things are manageable.

Later on, we travelled to Egypt, and here I remember how my father surprised me by saying: "We are going to stay at our home here in Egypt." So I was shocked but also not sure what my beloved father was referring to, so I stayed quiet until we reached Al Nasr city and on Makram Obaid Street behind Al Salab Store, my father said welcome home. "Yala, get ready, we are going to clean the house. This is so much fun activity!"

I was smiling then, because I could see some little boys and girls playing outside and next to them there was an ice cream man, and another who was selling the classic "foul" Egyptian dish. This scene is stuck in my head still today. When the weather was hot, at a certain time of the day, they were just all embracing it and finding their own way to feel comfortable by standing under some trees, but at the end everyone was simply working and earning their own living with smiles on their faces.

It's rare to find heat as intense as ours in other countries. However, without it, we wouldn't be having delicious dates.

I still remember my beloved father words: "God's blessing are a lot. Try to complain less and appreciate more. You will notice the half full glass always in your life."