Recently I headed down to the Rain Room in Sharjah in search of some hot-weather respite. What could be better than a gambol through the rain, without any of the negative side-effects of your typical rainfall – like sopping-wet clothes or ugly running-mascara face?
The Rain Room, an art project on permanent display at the Sharjah Art Foundation in its own, bespoke building, allows you to move through rain without getting wet: sensors detect where you are and stop the water from falling.
But I won’t lie. I could have done some things better in the trip planning. Here are four things to know before heading to the installation.
Lesson one: Book.
Don't assume that because it's hottest, emptiest UAE July, the Rain Room will be any less popular. It is busy, and you can easily book ahead by phone or on the website. Maybe I should have thought of this before driving two hours to Sharjah from Abu Dhabi. Maybe, maybe not. But I can now tell you that no feminine charm, New York-bred chutzpah, nor art-correspondent credentials will get you to jump the queue. The Rain Room people are firm but fair.
Lesson two: Move slowly.
The big tag line about the Rain Room is that you don't get wet. That's true, but only if you have the self-control of, say, a non-frenetic adult. Any movement quicker than the sensors can handle – the speed of someone wanting to cross a street and not get hit by a Land Cruiser – and you get a big, surprisingly frigid plop of water right down your back. Although you might think that all you want in life is a big, surprisingly frigid plop of water right down your back, when it actually happens, nope, you don't. Turn it into an exercise in zen.
Lesson three: Pack extra clothes.
This is key if you are not an adult, or if you are an adult packing for non-adults. I have been twice now and seen few greater displays of happiness than children running through the Rain Room water. True, unfettered joy, made all the better by not being allowed – and making up rules so that children can merrily break them is one of the unexpected pleasures of parenthood. But having wet, teeth-chattering children in the middle of the overly air-conditioned Emirati summer is not. Prepare yourselves.
Lesson four: Have cake.
The purple cake at Fen is absolutely delicious but will turn your tongue purple and, depending on your grace as an eater, your lips too. Now that the Rain Room is doubling as the UAE's largest selfie-taking station, let this be a public service announcement: choose your cake with care.
Rain Room is at the Sharjah Art Foundation, in the Heart of Sharjah. Visits can be booked in advance or purchased at the door and are Dh25 for adults, Dh15 for teachers and students up to the age of 22, and free for children under five.Saturday–Thursday: 9am to 9pm, Friday: 4pm to 11pm. To book online, rainroom.sharjahart.org/getTicket.htm