Since last week most Dubai mornings have been shrouded in dense, drizzly fog. DS2 thought it was still night time when he got up, and was on his way back to bed when DH explained it was just the weather, and that schools do not close due to fog!
‘Is it autumn?’ enquired DS2 in all earnestness.
Bless, kids who have spent so much of their young lives in Dubai are only exposed to 1.5 seasons in a year, so they assume anything that diverges from the heat norm constitutes a season, even if it only lasts for a week or so.
When I think about it, most adults have an interesting reaction to the foggy season. Thinking back to last week and 2013’s first day of fog in Dubai, I can chart a wide variety of emotions from the moment I turned the key in my car ignition to my arrival in my office. Like most sensible drivers, I dread having to drive in the fog. Driving in Dubai can be quite scary at the best of times, but in fog it feels like a form of Russian roulette!
As I set off on my work commute Virgin radio reported that in some spots visibility was down to 8 metres. Needless to say I was a tad nervous. I stayed in the middle of the road, kept my distance from the car in front and drove quite a bit below the speed limit (if you have read about my recent speeding tickets, you cannot begin to imagine how frustrating this is!). By the time I reached Al Khail road heading in the direction of Dubai, the fog seemed to become thicker. The ghostly fog swam along the highway swallowing the road markings as it went. I couldn’t see car lights ahead of me. My rear view mirror reflected the same view as the one in front of me. I felt alone and lonely on the road. At one point when I was down to less than half the speed I would normally drive on that road, I thought about pulling over to the hard shoulder, turning on my hazards and waiting for the fog to lift.
As this thought crossed my mind, my car wobbled from side to side. Speeding cars flew past me, easily travelling the speed I would only risk on a clear day. And that’s not the worst of it…..some of these cars hadn’t switched on their headlights, let alone their fog lights! That kind of behaviour explains the 100+ car pile up in a foggy Abu Dhabi a few years back. To think I used to rant about those drivers who think it is OK to use hazard lights instead of fog lights in fog……hazards are better than nothing!
As I neared the office, I encountered a woman on a mountain bike. She was dressed in grey with not a reflective colour in sight. She was not wearing a helmet (an AED500/Euros100/GBP80 right there) but she was wearing headphones (?????? = are you crazy). I was driving in my 4×4 and I felt vulnerable…..she obviously had a deathwish!
Turning towards my office tower’s car park, I prayed the usual peacock traffic jam would not materialise. Peacocks around Emirates Towers are like sheep on the country roads in Ireland. They taunt drivers by faffing around in the centre of the road. I think they are deaf; revving the engine or hooting the horn has zero effect. Generally, I love watching them; that peacock blue is simply one of the most beautiful colours on the planet and a lovely sight first thing…but I don’t want to be responsible for squishing one of them because I didn’t see it!
When I entered my office in the dizzy heights of Emirates Towers, I was met with a buzz of excitement and the question ‘have you seen the fog?’. Kind of difficult to miss it! This is precisely what I mean by the reactions fog evokes in Dubaians. One minute I am negotiating my way like a blind rat through a lethal maze that is my commute to work, and the next I am staring in awe at the breathtaking views from my office.
Being very fortunate to have one the best positioned offices on our floor, I am very popular when it’s foggy. Until mid morning when the sun chases the fog away, my office is like Euston Station, with people coming in and out to take photos of the ethereal view (mental note: I should start charging an entry fee!). I can’t blame them. From my office I can see the top half of the Burj Khalifa shining proudly above the mist and teasing the fog with a ‘beat that’ attitude. The other tall buildings in the vicinity keep the Burj Khalifa company. The Gate at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is invisible. From the safety of my fabulous office, I think this must be what if feels like to sit on a cloud!