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Staying home for the summer

Being a ‘Travel-Not’ this summer ain’t so bad, says Hima Bhandoola

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Unlike most years, we are staying in Dubai this summer. Inspired by all the talk of austerity worldwide, our family decided to launch its own belt-tightening drive. And the first thing to go was the summer travel.

Yes, come summer, the population of Dubai (that is usually so diverse and difficult to classify into groups), gets split into two distinct categories: the ‘Travels’ and the ‘Travel-Nots’. ‘What are your plans this summer?’ becomes the oft-repeated question you will hear in office corridors, at coffee mornings and at school pick-ups.

But have you noticed that only those who have exotic travel plans are the ones that typically ask this question? The ‘Travels’ pose it with great relish and barely wait long enough for your answer before launching enthusiastically into a detailed description of their own enviable plans.

‘Oh we’ve hired a cottage in the South of France where we will spend most of summer. And we have two weeks in Bali before heading back.’ Blah blah blah…

But if you mumble an almost apologetic ‘We have no plans this summer’, they stop mid-sentence to stare at you aghast, and then subject you to the sympathy nod with a long drawn out ‘Awww… You poor thing,’ that’s usually reserved for responding to news of some terrible family misfortune.

Yes. Staying back in Dubai for summer is treated like a calamity of sorts and you’ll find that people move away quickly to seek refuge with other ‘Travels’ just in case it is contagious.

As I drove around this morning, Summer Holiday was playing on the car stereo and I sang loudly along with Cliff Richard as I have done a thousand times before.

We’re all going on a summer holiday,

No more working for a week or two.

We’re going where the sun shines brightly,

We’re going where the sea is blue.

For the first time I actually reflected on the words and realized that we live in a place where the sun shines brightly and the sea is blue everyday – it’s like a summer holiday all year round. The beautiful beaches and clear blue skies (a bit of poetic licence here) that we see in other people’s holiday photos are actually right here for us to enjoy every day.

And then it struck me that instead of feeling sorry for having to spend summer here, I should actually be delighted to indulge in the many joys this city has on offer in summer.

The red and yellow flame trees and the cassis trees that line the long roads of Dubai are positively bursting with colour in summer. There are no crowds anywhere, no traffic on the roads, entire parking lots free for you to drive doughnuts in (if you so choose), sales staff keen on your custom, kids’ play areas that aren’t overrun on the weekends, and no school run... what more could you ask for?

But the best reason to stay back in summer is to have beaches and swimming pools free for yourself. I admit I rarely venture out for any water activities during the rest of the year when there are people around.

You could say I am a tad conscious of stepping out in my swimming gear in full public view. I have tried really hard to find a costume that flatters my figure. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the swim suits are fine. The figure is not. So, I actually can’t wait for the annual migration to begin so that I can get back into the water and cool down.

Summer is also a time for endless discussion about the weather. We know that you can’t go anywhere in Britain without someone talking about the weather, and they’re almost proud of the fact that they get more rain than anywhere else. And we in Dubai are becoming the same, and are getting quite competitive in reporting record temperatures.

At the end of term, I overheard an interesting conversation between mothers in the school corridor. A new arrival to Dubai was talking about her first scorching summer experience when a veteran Dubaian mum cut her off, saying, ‘Oh this is nothing! Wait until August and you’ll know what scorching heat means. Last year my car temperature gauge showed 52 degrees!’ And with a flourish, she proudly whipped out her iPhone to show off photographic evidence.

I was once guilty of updating my Facebook wall with a picture of the temperature gauge showing 50 degrees too. The post promptly had a flurry of responses from friends and family scattered across the globe. I must admit I was quite chuffed with their incredulous reactions.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that I love being here in summer. And actually, I can’t wait to meet smug South of France holiday lady come September. Because let’s face it – travelling with little ones isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. No doubt she will have lived out of a suitcase all summer, spent a good amount of time in foreign medical clinics with sick kids who have contracted strange bugs, and dealt with fractious children on long journeys as she and hubby attempted to visit lots of relatives who refused to make the short journey to see them, even though they’ve just flown halfway across the globe to catch up with the family... All sound familiar?

In fact, I will burst into song when I see her, and am looking forward to the reaction.

We’re all STAYING on a summer holiday,

No more traffic and there’s parking for two.

Fun and laughter on our summer holiday,

The pools and beaches are just for me and you.

We’re staying where the sun shines brightly,

We’re staying where the sea is blue….

Happy holidays everyone!

By Time Out Dubai Kids staff
Time Out Dubai,

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Good one Hima- So true - there are always great things to do right about where you are , which we somehow never got to doing and enjoying the pace completely. Someone had tole me once a long time ago, when I was in the Middle East - Enjoy where you are completely and forget about finding the faults with the place. You will find lots of things to do and get out of the negativity loop... which is what most people seem to concentrate on. Anyways - The only true escape is from the mind and pre-concieved and borrowed notions. ANy place is as much fun as you make it out to be - and it is never a 'cost' factor. Cheers

Review by : Sanjiv Kohli