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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Beat by the heat: Horror stories of summer in the Emirates

From pieces of your car melting, to things spontaneously combusting in your pocket, to baking cookies on your dashboard: summer in the UAE is no balmy affair 

With temperatures pushing 50C, it's time to keep cool. Ryan Carter / The National
With temperatures pushing 50C, it's time to keep cool. Ryan Carter / The National

While it's not quite a UAE rendition of the Stephen King cult favourite, there are many aspects of summer in Dubai that strike panic, fear and an unrelenting resolve to book outward-bound flights into the hearts of UAE residents as soon as it hits May. While long-termers have grasped the concept of summer by now and know what it entails, for newcomers it's a time of trial and error, live and learn. Things we never thought could melt do, sweat emanates from pores we didn't even know we had, and the season that evokes frolicking outdoors for days on end elsewhere in the world, becomes one where we're confined to endless days of Netflix marathons - a scenario we'd long associated with winter. Those who have been here for several UAE summers will taunt the newcomer with many a horrifying tale of just how hot it gets here, but until you experience one, it's hard to fathom. Then again, even long-term residents can fall victim to the summer faux-pas; it seems no one is safe.

Here are the best (and most unbelievable stories) of summer quandaries in the UAE, as submitted by you:

1. When your car can double as a makeshift oven

Forget frying an egg on the pavement, how about using your vehicle as a kitchen appliance. Nick Regos recalls a summer in 2014, when it was so hot the old "it's so hot, you can fry an egg" and "my car feels like an oven" adages were bandied around at such frequency, he decided to put the hyperboles to the test.

"I said okay, if it feels like an oven, let's bake something in it! I was first being really ambitious and thought I'd roast a small piece of chicken or fish but realized that would probably be a terrible idea and lead to instant food poisoning," he said.

Instead, he channeled his inner Betty Crocker and came to work the next day armed with a pack of frozen cookie dough, a baking tray and his Nissan Tiida.

"I parked my car right in the sunny parking lot outside my office. Then after it had been in the sun for about three hours, I put a coaster on my dashboard and slipped in a tray of cookies on a metal baking sheet and just locked my car and walked away."

Three hours later, Mr Regos had to source oven gloves to pull the tray out of the car. Sure, aesthetically, they weren't about to be used on a Betty Crocker advertisement any time soon, being a bit paler than oven-baked cookies, but they did pass the taste test.

"I took the cookies up to the office, waited about 20 minutes for them to cool up a bit, and we just dug in! They were a bit flakier than normal cookies, but still 100% edible and we ate the whole batch!"

Bottom line: If your oven breaks in summer, at least you can still use your car.

2. When you're convinced you'd just been shot at, but it was just your pocket exploding

Nathan Walker was visiting Abu Dhabi from Leeds, off for a day of the normal touristy activities - with his most eventful stop of the day set to be Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, in more ways than one.

While the mosque itself was closed, it was probably not a good time for security guards to be eyeing him closely as he lined up a photo, when a loud sound emanated from his pocket.

"There was a big bang, a thud on my thigh and then wet stuff running down my leg.

"My first thought was that I had been shot, but it was actually a lighter exploding in my pocket."

Visions of severe maiming notwithstanding, Walker escaped the incident rattled, but not in too much pain.

"Yeah [it did hurt]. Not as much as being shot I'd guess, but it certainly smarted."

Bottom line: There is no good to come from carrying anything in your pockets in summer.

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JULY 14 – 2017 :- One of the pedestrian covering himself with the newspaper in the hot and dusty weather in International City area in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National )
DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JULY 14 – 2017 :- One of the pedestrian covering himself with the newspaper in the hot and dusty weather in International City area in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National )

3. When you're at risk of branding yourself if any part of your clothing has a zip

Because fashion choices are imperative in summer in the UAE - for more than just the obvious reasons.

A Dubai woman, who preferred not to be named, was at a friend's apartment when her friend needed to pop out to the shop nearby. The woman was wearing yoga pants with metal zips on the side.

"She was only out for about five minutes, but when she got back she felt a pain near her ankle - turns out the metal heating up had burnt her leg."

Bottom line: Make smart fashion choices. Wear things that can't burn, melt, or stick to you. In short, dress exclusively in really, really loose linen.

4. When expensive lipstick and other easily-liquefied things become things that ruin your outfit, instead of enhance it

Dannielle Noonan was at a pool day with friends in Dubai, with plenty of makeup on hand as the day wore on. It was Mac makeup, no less, a reasonably expensive brand to buy - let alone replace.

Unfortunately, the price of a product is often little safeguard against the harshness of a UAE summer.

"I reached into my bag to reapply my lipstick between sips and my whole tube of Velvet Teddy had turned to liquid," she said, describing it as a "sad day".

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Read more:

Vitamin D: why we don't get enough in the UAE

Car bursts into flames in UAQ due to high temperatures

Katrina Kaif swelters in the Abu Dhabi heat while filming Tiger Zinda Hai

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But further fashion-related quandaries were to come for Ms Noonan.

"I also unwrapped a chocolate at an evening brunch and it had turned to liquid spilling all over my white skirt. Lesson learned!"

Bottom line: Summer is a free pass to never wear makeup - take it. Also, just avoid chocolate outdoors by all means necessary. And ice cream. And cheese. And butter. And all dairy products. And, actually - just avoid eating outdoors.

SHARJAH , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JULY 14 – 2017 :- Pedestrians using the umbrella  during  the hot and dusty weather in Sharjah. ( Pawan Singh / The National )
SHARJAH , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JULY 14 – 2017 :- Pedestrians using the umbrella during the hot and dusty weather in Sharjah. ( Pawan Singh / The National )

5. When bits of your car actually melt

Vignesh went to Ruwais for a work trip a couple of hours, but couldn't find any shade to pay under while he was away. Assuming it would be fine for about seven hours, he left the car in the sun and headed for the airport.

Alas, as we've all learned from this list alone, 'Hakuna Matata' is unfortunately not a phrase that can be applied in a UAE summer, and the car fared less than ideally in the heat.

When he returned from the trip at the end of the day, all the car seals along the window had completely melted.

Bottom line: Shade, shade, shade. If you can't find it, stump up the cash and pay for covered parking. Or travel with car-sized tarpaulin in the boot.

6.When bits of your car actually melt, and fall off when you're driving down the highway

Saeed Saeed had been struggling with the rearview mirror on his Nissan Tiida, a rental car, for a while. Quite a crucial car accessory, the mirror was often drooping down the glass, not staying in place, and all but resembled an "expired lettuce" in its floppiness.

The mirror finally hit its expiration date a couple of months ago as Mr Saeed was driving down Sheikh Zayed Road on a particularly hot day.

"It completely fell off and landed on the gear stick.

"I panicked; on that freeway you've got to have your wits about you."

Mr Saeed veered off the motorway onto a shoulder to take stock of the damage, and call his rental agency. They told him the plastic fusing the mirror to the window had melted.

Bottom line: Do windshield sunshades come in a permanent variety with eye-hole cutouts for when you're driving?

7. Forget just the seals and a mirror: when your entire dashboard liquefies in the heat

After returning home from a 6-week break with his family, Akshar Uchil was checking up on his car when he undoubtedly rued the day he forgot to buy a windshield sunshade. While it seemed fine after a quick look, the well-maintained car belied the damage 45 unmoved days in the sun can inflict.

"The next morning when I got in the car there was a bad smell; like that of melted leather or rubber.

"The dashboard material had melted; it became like a dashboard made of clay," Mr Uchil said.

Bottom line: An unintentional advertisement for the virtues of a windshield sunshade if we've ever heard one.

8. When your credit card objects to being used so much and resorts to self harming

The exiting car routine each day as I arrived at work each day had become pretty second nature: park, find windshield sunshade, fight for dominance with windshield sunshade until it sits properly without slipping, exit car ensuring windshield sunshade was perched correctly, and then walk away and don't look back in case it was not perched correctly.

The routine had been completed in full the day that my credit card decided to shrivel up and die, so I was relatively surprised when I returned to my car after work, took the sunshade down, and then found a warped piece of plastic in my middle console.

My credit card, which I thought had been duly protected by my trusty dashboard reflector, had stood no test to the indirect heat, and was now a sad, wavy version of its former self.

While it still worked, I wouldn't recommend trying it - for if you do, it will inevitably become stuck in a parking machine days later, causing you to be 45 minutes late for dinner without a way to pay for it.

I can only assume it took umbrage at the previous week's work at Mall of the Emirates.

Bottom line: An unintentional bad review for the humble windshield sunshade, to completely discredit all we just wrote above.

9. When chocolate becomes the enemy, and not for its calorie count

Evelyn Lau was off to a spot of cycling in the sea, and in lieu of having any other quick ready-to-eat food in the house, had grabbed some dark chocolate to nibble on as a energizing treat.

She parked her car, with the chocolate inside, and left for her workout.

Two and a half hours later, she returned to find a scene akin to something new mothers are probably all too used to.

"It had melted everywhere. It had melted all down my passenger seat, all over my gym bag - and then I got it all over my hands. At first I was really worried about what this dark brown melted liquid mess was before I remembered my mistake.

"It was overall a terrible experience."

The worst part? This wasn't your average Tesco chocolate. This was Lindt.

Bottom line: See point four, but attribute to eating in a vehicle. In fact, unless you're in very close proximity to air conditioning, just eat bread. Or dry pasta. Or tinned foods. Basically, live like you're stuck in a bush somewhere.