Sunday, February 16, 2014


In Hoboken I feel very removed from the outdoors in my 10th floor apartment. The windows require almost super-human strength to open, so I leave them shut most of the time. I don't have a deck or porch, so I can't easily step outside. As a result if I want to know what the weather is like, I check the temperature on-line. Then I look across the street to an apartment balcony that has Christmas garland hanging from it year-round to determine wind direction and speed. If I suspect it might be raining, I peer down to the street below to see if the cars have their windshield wipers going or if people are walking with umbrellas. 

In Abu Dhabi there really isn't "weather" to speak of - it doesn't change dramatically from one day to the next. Most days it is sunny although sometimes there are a few clouds in the sky. The temperatures change gradually from furnace-hot in the Summer to absolutely perfect in the Winter and then back again. It's as humid as a rain forest in the Summer, pleasantly dry in the Winter, and every now and then we'll get a little bit of rain. I don't know about the interior, but here on the coast there is almost always a nice breeze that blows in from the Arabian Gulf. There really is no need to "check the weather" in the morning before heading out. 

This morning I woke to the sound of the wind. The windows in the bedroom are not completely air tight, so the wind blew through the cracks loudly, moaning and howling. As I lay there still mostly asleep I believed myself to be in Hoboken, listening to the Winter winds blast up the wind tunnel that is River Street. But as I came awake I was aware of the bright blue sky outside my window and felt momentary confusion. I expected the muted grey light of a snow storm. 

I don't have a neighboring balcony with a "wind sock" to check the wind speed and direction, but I do have something just as good. In the distance on a breakwater is an enormous flag. If I see it flapping straight out, I know it is very windy outside. Most of the time, the flag points inward to the city because the winds are blowing in off the water. This morning when I looked out the wind was blowing in from the interior, from the desert. I remembered the dust storm of two weeks ago and wondered....

This is the flag I see from my window. The tallest building on the skyline, the square building to the left of the flag, is Sama Tower where I live. This photo must be a few years old because there are now a few buildings which are taller. Buildings go up like mushrooms in Abu Dhabi.

Several hours have passed since I first awoke, and sure enough, the dust has blown in. My visibility has been cut down considerably even in the past hour. If I didn't know it was dust, I might think it fog except for the faint reddish-orange tinge in the air. 

I've heard the term "dust storm" before and seen photos of enormous, frightening clouds of dust roiling into Phoenix, AZ, or Sidney, Australia. This is not what I am experiencing. The wind is strong, but the dust didn't come in abruptly like an angry wave or storm front. It is blowing in gradually, more like smoke from a distant wildfire. 

The last time this happened, the dust remained in the air for a good 3-4 days. People grumbled about it getting their cars dirty, but that seemed the only inconvenience. I will be curious to see how long this "event" lasts. 

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