Monday, November 5, 2007

A Night Culture

Abu Dhabi is gradually becoming cooler, and we are spending more time outdoors. Daily temperatures hover between the low 70s and the low 90s. This weekend we had a barbeque with our neighbors and we dined by candlelight in our backyard. Except for an occasional moth flittering around someone's head, it was blissful.

Throughout metropolitan Abu Dhabi, armies of workers in green jumpsuits are edging lawns with foot-wide borders of red, white, pink and purple petunias - a sure sign the beautiful winter weather is coming. Palm trees are being trimmed, the dead clippings piled and removed later.

Yesterday an Emirati friend (I'll call her Amina) and I planned a picnic in a nearby park. We haven't seen each other since the start of Ramadan; I haven't phoned Amina for a while as I knew she was busy praying, fasting, and then enjoying the nightly Iftars.

"Oooh, a picnic, and not a shopping mall," she said on the phone. As beautiful as they are, the shopping malls cannot compare to a day outside in November here. We'd bring Amina's two-year-old with us.

When I arrived at her home, Amina - slim and graceful in her black abaya, sheyla, and high heels - approached my car with her young daughter. Her maid trailed behind with a large bag for the picnic.

"Do you have a carseat?" I asked.

"It is in storage," Amina said. I hesitated, thinking of the dangerous driving in Abu Dhabi. Amina does not drive.

"It is okay. She will sit with me," Amina smiled, opening her arms as if to say that was all the protection her child needed.

Car seats are not required by law here. I'm not sure seatbelts are either. While driving in Abu Dhabi, it's not unusual to see children jumping between the front and back rows of a moving car. This is drastically different from New Hampshire, where I'd get a $350 ticket if the police caught me driving with a young child not in a car seat. When my 10-year-old hit 80 pounds recently, he said "I'd just be getting out of a carseat back home!"

Amina, her daughter and I arrived at the park around noon. To my surprise it was closed. The guard said it opens at 4 p.m. on weekdays.

I was visibly disappointed, not only for Amina and me but for our young companion.

"The hot weather makes us lazy," Amina said as we walked back to the car.

"You have to slow down in the heat," I offered.

I looked at Amina's little girl, who sat calmly on her mother's lap as I drove away from the park.

"But what about the mothers and children who might like to play here? What do they do?" I asked.

"They go at night."

I'd forgotten that Abu Dhabians live by a different schedule. The weather has shaped their routines and habits, just as it has shaped mine back home.

In both the UAE and the northeastern US, the temperatures drop at night. This makes the night the perfect time to go out in Abu Dhabi, while in New Hampshire the frosty evenings make many want to stay home and curl up in bed with a good book.


Land-Frau said...

Quite a few of our family and friends move south in wintertime, I like it here!Regards.Gisela..die Landfrau

Frances Gunnison said...

There's a lot to be said for sunny weather every day of the year. Still, nothing beats autumn in New Hampshire. I guess I'll enjoy Abu Dhabi while I'm here and be happy to go home when that day comes.

Land-Frau said...

That's the right point of view! So long..Gisela