x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Sharing the great outdoors while it's still cool enough is almost a duty

One can feel almost guilty about staying indoors before the heat and humidity of summer drive everybody there anyway.

Mr T and I have been in a race against time over the past few weeks. Summer is fast approaching and we've only just realised that the coming humidity levels will keep us indoors for at least the next six months.

It is fascinating how big a role the climate and its fluctuations can play in life. We use talk of the weather to bridge a lull in a conversation, to find a common ground with strangers, to fill the empty silence in a lift full of neighbours and colleagues whom we feel we should greet, but are unsure how. "Can you believe how hot it is, how cold it's been, how sticky it feels, how icy the roads and wet the pavements?" - expressions we rely on to get a conversation started, keep one going or end it with panache.

In the UAE, talk of the weather has become more of an obsession than a mere observation. Serious discussions on the thickness of the fog, or the strength of the wind, or the yellowness of a sandstorm whirling out of the desert, will always be conducted with a slight frown and a worried expression. Weather talk even crosses over into my international conversations: when I'm asked how I like living here by family or friends back home in Jordan, my go-to response is: "I love it. The only complaint is the ridiculous heat and humidity in the summer; if it weren't for that, life would be perfect."

This obsession with the weather, coupled with the fear of the coming humidity levels, mean that Mr T and I have been trying to find the incentive to get up off the couch and put more of an effort into an outdoorsy type of life - one that includes social interaction - since the start of the year. The result? A recent bout of forced fun, in a desperate attempt to feel like we have made the most out of the pleasant winter weather.

I can no longer tell if we are genuinely interested in being outdoors so often, or just creating as many opportunities to inhale fresh air as we can so we don't end up feeling guilty in the long run.

We have taken to walking to a nearby grocery store, instead of driving to a crowded Carrefour. A sandwich in the park wins over a bucket of popcorn in the cinema, and a cup of coffee in a Khalidiya café with birds chirping in a tree overhead trumps curling up in the leather armchair of my favourite air-conditioned coffee shop.

I'm in need of new jeans, and I know it will require the better part of a day and some serious mall-hopping to find just the right pair. On a recent Saturday, before the sunny morning had disappeared into the haze of a sudden sandstorm, I asked Mr T if he'd be willing to spend a few hours on a jeans-hunting expedition with me.

"Can't you live without them for a few more weeks," he asked. "Let's save the shopping until it's too hot and humid to be outside. Let's go to the beach instead."

This was, as I say, before the unexpected sandstorm. We ended up staying in after all.

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