Complaining about summer in the UAE? Check your privilege

Summer months, for many people, are about more than simply jetting abroad

Not even the desert is off limits in the summer, as proven by Saeed Saeed on an early morning July visit. Courtesy Saeed Saeed 
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The chatter is everywhere and it is getting contagious. From ­discussions among colleagues at work to overheard conversations in the coffee shops of Abu Dhabi malls, the subject seemingly on everyone's lips is "escape".

You would think something terrifying is about to happen, as opposed to just the onset of summer.

While, yes, the school holiday and the nearby European summer means a great opportunity to travel abroad for a break, the idea that getting out is a necessity is a mistake. And, remember, summers abroad are simply too costly for many expats.

For us, an annual summer break in war-torn Eritrea wasn't on the agenda

I was explaining this to a professional acquaintance the other day. The British Abu Dhabi resident was in a forlorn state; her work commitments meant she had to be in the capital for the summer as opposed to resting in the relatively cooler climate of London. “And it’s not like I can send the kids back to my parents for two months,” she said. “It will be too much for them to handle.”

My advice was straightforward: stay put and embrace the lifestyle change that summer brings.

Columnist Saeed Saeed at Yas Mall: 

It only seems radical until you consider that generations of Abu Dhabi residents didn’t have – and many still don’t – the luxury of travelling abroad annually. Such was the case for my family and many friends during my first decade-long stint living in the capital throughout the 1980s.

While our parents found professional jobs in the country, a key motivation to coming to the UAE was to escape our troubled homelands. For us, an annual summer break in war-torn Eritrea wasn’t on the agenda.

So we spent back-to-back summers in Abu Dhabi and it was something to look forward to. Even more than the school vacation, the hotter months gave all residents a chance to break away from our normal routine. Everything changed, from the kind of food we consumed, to the clothes we wore and the way we socialised.

One thing that stands out in my memory of these days is how ­everything started earlier, in order to make the most of the coolest part of the day. This meant my dad and his mates went out for breakfast, while my mum and her crew would do a morning stroll. Our night-time visits to our Emirati friends also changed to the AM in order to have tea and chat on the patio.

Another difference was the clothes we wore. My dad would go to the tailor and get me and my younger brother a bunch of white kanduras. The key point to remember here is to always wear bright and loose clothing made with good quality cotton.

Perhaps the biggest and healthiest development summer gave our family was the consumption of fruits. With us being a bunch of savoury eaters – “dessert is not part of our culture”, my mum would say – a fruit platter was a delicacy in our house. But during the summer months, my parents would raid the fruit section of the Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society, near Abu Dhabi Mall, and come home with mangoes and watermelons aplenty.

It is for these reasons, and I can list many more, that I always approach this season in Abu Dhabi with a certain fondness. Where some view it as an endless supply of heat and humidity, I think of morning walks, great family conversations and slices of mangoes.

More importantly, I can look back at that time and honestly say those languid days gave our family the chance to reconnect with each other. Instead of holidaying overseas, staying in our adopted home gave us the gift of quality time together. Approach it the right way and the Abu Dhabi summer will do the same for you and your loved ones.