Unable to beat the summer heat, some Dubai residents must find ways to deal with it: NPR

Dubai’s summer is long and hot. And the migrant workers who keep the city going year-round find brief refuge in simple pleasures, even if it’s outdoors.



Mary Louise Kelly, host:

Summer in Dubai is very hot and long. Temperatures in this Gulf Arab city can rise to more than a hundred degrees day and night. And the humidity is at another level, which, in addition to making it hotter, can also make things sticky. NPR’s Aya El-Batrawy reports on how some residents who can’t beat the heat have found ways to at least deal with it.

AYA BATRAWI, BYLINE: It’s hot and humid.

Earlier this summer, I dared to venture outside my walled, air-conditioned existence in the UAE by heading to Dubai’s historic waterfront creek.

There is a hot breeze, so there is a breeze. But I would say it’s pretty hot. This is the time of year when people stay home. This is not the time of year when people go outside. This is the opposite.

Well, at least that’s how Dubai’s wealthy residents are experiencing the summer – by sheltering in place in the city’s sprawling restaurants, gyms and shopping malls or by flocking in droves to cooler European cities and coasts. But not everyone in Dubai has that much money or vacation. There are hundreds of thousands of foreign workers who keep the city vibrant all year round. The area around Dubai Creek provides a public space to relax in the summer. Basharat Hussain from Pakistan sits on a bench overlooking the Gulf waters. He is a crane operator who works 10 hours a day with one day off a week. He has been working in Dubai for 15 years.

Basharat Hussein: Sitting is rest.

Patrawi: Yes. Yes.

Hussein: Good.

Patrawi: Good here. It’s a nice breeze. There is a little breeze.

Hussein: No one, safety is good.

Patrawi: It’s a good area.

With his feet up on the seat, he offered to buy me a soft drink.

Hussein: Two Pepsi, please.

BATRAWY: Oh, thank you very much. Thank you.

Al Khor has kiosks selling cold and soft drinks, which is a wonderful and universal summer treat. There’s also a wide promenade, shady patches of grass, sand-coloured traditional buildings and an understated charm that sets it apart from Dubai’s posh neighborhoods and futuristic skyscrapers. Muhammad Somji is a long-time Dubai resident and photographer who documents the city’s outdoor spaces, which have shrunk over time amid an endless construction spree. He says public spaces like Dubai Creek, where you can take off your slippers and relax, provide workers, who often only get a few weeks off every two years, a chance to connect with nature and live outside of their work.

Muhammad Somji: For example, we always think in the calendar year, oh, summer is when the kids are on vacation or when work is quiet. So I can come back, and I can travel and travel and things like that. They don’t have that luxury. So for them, summer is like any other time, except hotter because of the way the holiday goes.

Patrawi: In Al Khor, I met a group of friends from Nepal sitting under some palm trees. They work all summer, and this is their only day off a week. Rita Boren told me she likes to sleep in on her day off. It’s too hot anyway for anything else this time of year.

Rita Boren: Maybe at three o’clock, I’ll be out.

Patrawi: Yes.

Buren: Then I meet my friend, my sister, and my brother. I make TikTok, and I have a lot of fun with TikTok.

(sound of Music)

Unidentified musical artist: (singing in a language other than English).

Patrawi: That’s true. They make TikTok videos, and we decided to do one together. Her friends join her.

You guys are good dancers.

(He laughed)

Patrawe: Amazing. this is funy.

It’s almost sunset. We’re all sweaty and a little out of breath now. Closer to the water, another group of Nepalese gather in a small motorboat, playing music.

(sound of Music)

Patrawe: Did I mention it’s still really hot? But just as moisture fills the air, so does their laughter. Aya Al-Batrawi, NPR News, Dubai.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ROOTS SONG, “WHAT DO THEY DO”)

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