x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Whistling at the sight of rain clouds

You can generally guess how long an expatriate has been in the UAE by his or her reaction to rain.

I think that perhaps the greatest sign that a vital cord to your homeland has been severed is when you start whistling at the sight of rain clouds.

This last week, we've seen a few early morning downpours, the sort that might stir you from sleep and lull you semi-awake as the rain beats down on to the balcony.

A local friend calls it's the sky "recalibrating" after a punishing summer.

But next time it chucks it down, note the changed atmosphere when you walk out on to the street afterwards. Everyone is suddenly buoyant. The couple I see running around for a taxi every morning have a renewed spring in their step, big smiles from Emirati colleagues at the amazing weather, and Facebook is suddenly awash (literally) with images of a brooding, blackened sky around the Burj Khalifa, about 13 accompanying "likes" and comments such as "Woop!"

Despite hailing from a particularly well-soaked part of England (they don't call it 'Rainy Manchester' for nothing), I've become no stranger to this post-rain jubilance since moving to the Middle East. I think it all comes down to the age-old adage that a change is as good as a rest.

Living in a part of the world where every single morning the sun shines can often make one day seem to slide into the next. Elsewhere, the sky dictates so much of the peaks and troughs of day-to-day life. We wait in anticipation for when seemingly endless grey and immobile skies are pierced by a bit of blue, or when a biting wind dies down, or when the sun is high enough that the ground stops being icy.

But in the absence of seasons - aside from hot and hotter - we have few markers to tell us that time is passing. The temperature changes but the view remains the same.

For this reason I think that such tumultuous downpours refresh more than just the soil, they give us some perspective on the otherwise Groundhog Day-like continuity of sunny days.

That such mighty showers only come twice, maybe three times annually make them even more dramatic. Even just the gathering of dark clouds can draw colleagues to the windows who stare out with amazement at an event that would provoke glumness were they anywhere else.

I'm not suggesting that one go out dancing in these salty downpours (nor am I advising against it) but the rains always fall at the more reflective times of the year. They come as a reminder that pushing oneself out of a routine, doing something different, can be just as refreshing. Umbrellas remain, however, optional.