Sunday, May 27, 2007

Trimming the Date Palm Trees

Petunias are a winter flower in Abu Dhabi.
About a month ago, they began to wilt and fade as the days grew warmer. Now they've been pulled up by armies of workers, who spend long days tending the lawns, shrubs and flowers that Abu Dhabi is famous for. Today I saw brilliant red and pink and yellow zinnias, on strong, three-foot stems, drying up and giving in to the heat of oncoming summer. Hibiscus and oleander are having a field day.

The workers are also trimming the date palm trees around the city. This is a good thing: the palm fronds have grown so long that they whip the windshield of my car when I drive in the left lane.

As the days grow hotter - it was 105 degrees yesterday - we are more and more inside the house. It is the reverse of winter in New Hampshire, which would gradually confine us to the indoors on the short, frigid, snowy days from December through March.

As the heat comes on and school winds to a close, people are beginning to pack their bags for a summer spent elsewhere. Many families we know leave the day school ends; basically anyone who has the wherewithall leaves Abu Dhabi for at least part of the summer. It is simply too hot to do much here during July and August. Even the beautiful, aquarmarine Arabian Gulf feels like a bathtub.

Two exceptions are my friends from Lebanon, who are unsure what they'll do because of recent violence in their home country.

"If there are no bombs for a week I'll buy the tickets," one friend said. Last summer she enrolled her nine-year-old son in a wonderful camp in Lebanon. But then she and her husband and son had to be evacuated when war broke out with Israel.

"I can take it, I am so used to it, but it really bothers (my son) Danny," she said.

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