Is the heat on?

One day back when my brother and I were kids, we randomly caught on TV the act of a black comedian, who was riffing on an older relative — one with, as adults we now understand, symptoms of menopause — who constantly complained of being hot. In his singsongy mimic, he would exclaim over and over: “Is the heat on? ‘Cause it sho is hot!” Now, for whatever reason, our juvenile little brains found this hilarious. And over the years, while we have forgotten the comedian’s name, we randomly, and usually without any any cause whatsoever, ask each other during phone calls, or as subject lines to e-mails: “Is the heat on?” There is no response. We just laugh stupidly together at our inside joke. Just chalk it up to one of those strange sibling things.

One of the more popular things I was asked when people found out I was moving to the UAE was, Isn’t it hot there? (This from people already living in Texas where summer is known, to quote friend ET, as “nuclear hellfire.”)

When I first got here in December, the weather was glorious. While folks in Texas were concentrating on layering and dealing with ice storms, I had warm sunny days, and nights just cool enough to warrant a sweater. And it stayed quite pleasant until April. But since then, yes, it is hot. It’s been pretty much over 100 degrees since early May, low 80s at night. Not pleasant. The worst days were in May when the mercury regularly reached 110 or more . The highest recorded temp so far, at least according to the government, was 116.

Still, on most days the heat ain’t all that different from Big D. (It’s more humid here, but this just reminds me of Houston, where I grew up.) I act mostly the way I did back home: crack the car windows a little, exercise before the sun rises, try not to be outside during the day. I’ve learned not to leave home without a water bottle since gas stations are much less frequent along the highway than at home. I’ve come to terms that al fresco dining is out of the question until maybe October.

More than the heat, it’s the dust that gets to me. And living in the desert, this is something that gets to me every day. A few weeks ago, there was a sandstorm that raged for the better part of a week. The ground, the sky, everything was a dull tan. Visibility was at a minimum. Even the high-rises across the highway in the Marina were pretty well obscured. My paper reported that two billion — billion! — tons of dust were moving across the Arabian peninsula over those days. Yeow. This is what billions of tons of dust look like: (picture taken during the day)

The Dubai Marina obscured by a sandstorm from my balcony.
The Dubai Marina obscured by a sandstorm from my balcony.

The sky is never really clear around here. The few times I catch a glimpse of truly blue skies and Simpsons clouds is a rare treat. That’s life in the desert, I suppose. But it does mess with my eyes, which are usually irritated and sticky feeling. I know, it sounds attractive. I’ve been told regular doses of saline solution helps. In the meantime, I’ll be counting down the days until winter.