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Archive | urban nature

Saturday’s Snapshot (surat al-sabt) لقطة السبت


Abu Dhabi city stretches along the Arabian Gulf, so on one side of the Corniche Road is beach and blue water; on the other side are glass-clad towers.  The city has expanded the beach recently, and this new stretch of sand has just opened. The man in the chair is a lifeguard.  But by about 11AM, when I took this picture, it’s too hot to be at the beach. Even the water is hot.

Continue Reading · on September 15, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, surat al-sabt saturday snapshot, urban nature

Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend has never been a big deal for me. I do a mental “thank you” to the military and then go on with my business. I don’t like parades; I’ve never had a summer house that needs to be “opened” for the season; for most of my adult life I’ve never even had a backyard within which to barbecue, should the mood strike me.

So mostly, Memorial Day weekend has meant hoping that someone would invite me to one of those big fun summer parties you’re supposed to go to (but might exist only in magazines or the most froufrou echelons of The Hamptons), or sniffing around (oh so casually) for an invitation to someone’s summer house, or finding some Fun Family Activity, dammit, to fill that no-school Monday.

A  non-event, really, is what I’m saying.

Which is why you can imagine my surprise when I got all verklempt reading Anna’s blog post about various red,white, and blue recipes.  I mean, the little star-shaped pancakes are pretty cute, but they’re not worth getting all emotional about.

No, it wasn’t the pancakes (sorry Anna), but a sudden pang about missing the rhythms of home.

It’s comforting, knowing what’s coming, knowing how the year will unfold. Out here, where I’ve still not spent an entire year, everything is sort of a surprise – but nothing much seems to change. It’s more or less hot; it’s more or less sandy; it’s more or less windy.  I guess it’s summer here because it’s already so hot: so hot, in fact, that the boys’ school cancelled after-school swimming lessons because of the heat. Too hot for the instructors to be walking around on the pool deck, apparently.

How will the summer unfold here? I don’t know. I know when the boys’ school ends for the year; I know when we’re traveling back to New York; I know when we’re coming back here. But other than those punctuation marks, I’m not sure what the other markers are. Ramadan happens in there somewhere, as dictated by the lunar calendar, and the end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of Eid, which is determined by the first sighting of the crescent moon.  As near as I can tell, between now and early October, most of Abu Dhabi goes into the malls and hides until it’s not so steamy out – the opposite of what happens in the Northeast, where people climb out of their dark apartments, blinking like moles in the sunlight, and recklessly bare their wintery skin to the warmth.

Not knowing the rhythms of a place is one of the (many) unexpected things on my list of “stuff that’s weird about expat life.”  It’s like you’re always just the slightest bit off-kilter because you’re missing signposts and landmarks you didn’t even know mattered.  I mean really, missing Memorial Day? That’s weird.

It’s not the red-white-and-blue I miss, though (and yes, there’s probably a political metaphor in there somewhere, but we’ll leave it safely buried for now).  I miss that sense of belonging, I think: everyone knows it’s Memorial Day; everyone (mostly everyone) gets Monday off or gets to commiserate about not getting Monday off.

Here? Monday is just…Monday. And it’s gonna be hot. That much I know for sure.

I took this picture on my whirlwind trip a few weeks ago. I guess there is a reason they call New Jersey the Garden State. I may not miss the red-white-and-blue, but I miss green a whole hell of a lot.

Here’s something I try never to miss: the yeahwrite linkup. Every week we “small” bloggers (we may be small bloggers but we all have very tall personalities) link together under the curator-ship of the elegant Erica: click, read, come back and vote for your faves.
read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Continue Reading · on May 26, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Travel, urban nature

it’s not politics, just a day at the beach

It’s been a cold winter here and a cold spring. Even now, in the middle of March, it’s only 73F and usually, by now, the temperature hovers in the low 80s.  Weather, here, seems to mean two things: wind and sand.  Sometimes the sand hangs so thickly in the air it looks like fog…and then you realize that everything is coated with a thin film of grit: hair, clothes, shoes, skin, eyelids.

The other day, though, the wind stopped blowing and the sand settled down, so we went to the Corniche for ice cream and a walk along the beach.  Everyone else in the city had the same idea, which meant the beach become an easy illustration of all the different types of people who call this city home.

Everyone has to be warned about how to dress:

But people define “appropriate” in all kinds of different ways:

Ah the banana hammock. I contemplated showing this man the sign about “appropriate,” but I’m not sure he’d see things my way. Gotta love that European unselfconsciousness, right?

Others, however, prefer a more modest masculine bathing ensemble:

After the picture was taken, these guys took turns dunking one another; there was much splashing and sputtering, although from the looks of it, none of them knew how to swim.

A more sedate group chose to watch from the beach:

Yes, they are wearing actual bikinis. Right there, on the public beach.  No one ogled them, no one scolded them, no stones were thrown.  Down at the water’s edge, meanwhile, these women were also enjoying the day:

So were they:

I don’t want to get all sentimental and over-dramatic–it was just an afternoon at the beach, after all–but spending time with all these different people, all sharing the same narrow patch of sand, I found myself feeling weirdly optimistic about the fate of the world.  I mean, what would happen if we all decided to just…get along?


Continue Reading · on March 13, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Politics, UAE, urban nature, What’s It Like?

winter sunset

It has been actually chilly here the past few days, and overcast. It’s almost as if we’re having weather.  Of course, by “chilly” I mean it’s been about 60F in the evenings–so it’s cool but doesn’t quite warrant the earmuffs I saw a man wearing yesterday.

The clouds during the day often start to drift away by late afternoon and create great end-of-day lightshows over the city:

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Continue Reading · on January 25, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, environment, urban nature

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