Spring in the UAE: A time filled with regret and guilt

Spring can be more of a threat than a promise in the UAE, but I've decided to make the most of it

Abu Dhabi/ Corniche. People do different activates and sports in Abu Dhabi corniche during the whole year. Some of them spend their time with their families on the beach and swiming in the warm water and playing volly ball. While others enjoy exercising, walking, biking, and skating.    
 Fatima Al Mazouqi/The National
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I don't need the temperature to rise to know summer is on the way. The true harbinger of the impending heat is the lack of enthusiasm apparent on my Abu Dhabi street at the moment.

In the seven years that I have called this country home, one thing I have learnt is that spring is more a threat than a promise. That’s if you can even call it a season.

UAE weather doesn’t do subtlety – like petrol stations on the highway, spring and autumn are mere pit stops in the rush towards the heat and the cold. And with summer a punishing affair during which outdoor activities are limited, I can understand and sympathise with the gaggle of men assembled at a local cafe in Khalidiya.

“Khalas, it’s over,” I overheard one of the gents say to his companion. “It happens like this all the time. You get this hot flush of weather, then the ‘riyah khamsiyah’ [May winds], then it’s this big flat heat.”

Moving his piece on the checkerboard, the friend concurs. “Aaaaah, Ali,” he sighs. “Not satisfying this winter, normally February gives us a few storms but I have seen nothing. Now with Ramadan also in May, this is going to be tough,” he adds.

The negative vibes these two emanate travel faster than their cigarette fumes. By the time my tea had arrived, I am wracked with guilt and regret – I had so many plans for this past winter, from exercising on the Corniche to picnicking with friends, to long meditative strolls in Umm Al Emarat Park – I achieved none of them. So, like a convict set for prison-time, I have spent the past few weeks ticking these boxes.


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It has been bittersweet, the long walk in the park was rejuvenating – the perfectly manicured gardens, the tasteful lighting and all the family atmosphere was indescribably soothing. The yoga on the Corniche, not so much. First of all, I didn’t bring a mat because I lost it and my friend, who led our little collection of creaky bones and stiff necks, wasn’t compromising in his approach.

That said, the Abu Dhabi Corniche on a clear winter morning is definitely a refreshing way to start the day. I completely understood the satisfied smiles of the passing joggers and that slick African rollerblader –  they are the looks of people who have this whole expat thing down. They understand the principle that expat life in general can only provide you with as much as you are willing to give.

The pockets of time we have – particularly if you are single or live far away from your close family networks – can be as exhilarating as they are terrifying. In that need to fill them, I have often elected to unnecessarily overwork rather than to do more self-fulfilling activities. That needs to change, and unless you are in the teaching profession and approaching a lengthy mid-year holiday, summer also provides ample time to reconsider your priorities, despite the heat.

Somewhat energised by my mental epiphany, I decide to really explore the fitness options in my neighbourhood. Khalidiyah gyms often compensate for their diminutive size with proud alpha names like Tiger Gym and Rock Gym Body Building & Fitness.

After expressing my desire to sign up straight away at one such gym, the smiling attendant took me aside conspiratorially and told me in a hushed tone to wait for the cheap summer deals to kick in.

“Much better for you,” he said and looked at my generous stomach. “Until then, enjoy your life.”