Holidaying in Dubai in the middle of a 50C heatwave

By Alison Stephenson

Alison Stephenson realised why her luxury hotel in Dubai was so cheap — it was 50C outside.

At least Dubai knows how to handle the heat. Photo / Getty Images
At least Dubai knows how to handle the heat. Photo / Getty Images

When I arrived in Dubai in early July this year, it finally dawned on me why my luxurious five-star hotel was so damn cheap.

It was 50 degrees celsius. Yes, FIFTY.

After suffering through half a fairly cold and miserable winter in Sydney, the thought of baking in the heat in the UAE was like, well, sunshine on a rainy day.

But fifty?

It's not unusual for the weather to be hot and humid in Dubai in summer, with temperatures averaging between 30 degrees celsius at night and the low 40s during the day.

"Piece of cake," I thought. "I've lived through 30 Januarys in Sydney."

But I wasn't quite prepared for halfway to boiling.

"I'll be fine, we can just cool off at the beach and swim all day," I told my fiance.

Nope. That's 37 degrees celsius too. Like a hot bath.

The heat was like nothing I've ever experienced before. All-encompassing. The contrast made even more extreme upon exiting an air-conditioned building into the inescapable heat of the desert. Like jumping from inside a fridge straight into an oven.

The thought of baking in the heat in the UAE was like, well, sunshine on a rainy day. Photo / Supplied
The thought of baking in the heat in the UAE was like, well, sunshine on a rainy day. Photo / Supplied

Beads of condensation instantly forming on your phone, covering the screen with a wet film when you walk outside.

Your glasses fogging up at the same time, so you can't see where you're going.

Going for a swim in the ocean but feeling no reprieve whatsoever and thinking it would almost be more comfortable out if it weren't for the sand scalding the soles of your feet.

Oops, that idea was a mistake.

But for all the heat and humidity, for all the dabbing of the forehead and the beads of sweat rolling down your back, I had the time of my life.

Dubai does heat exceptionally well.

In fact, I wouldn't have even noticed it was the off-season were it not for the great deals on the hotels.

Every cab is air-conditioned. Every pool is cooled. Every drink is iced.

We were barely in the heat for more than a minute at a time as we stepped from air-conditioned hotel to air-conditioned cab to air-conditioned mall/restaurant/next destination.

Alison, pictured on the right, with her partner, left, braving the scorching temperatures in Dubai. Photo / Supplied
Alison, pictured on the right, with her partner, left, braving the scorching temperatures in Dubai. Photo / Supplied

Taxis are so cheap because the price of petrol is so low in the UAE which means you can afford to just grab a cab and be driven anywhere you want to go.

A few days after I left, the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology issued a warning that temperature would again peak at 50C, but this time coupled with the soaring 90 per cent humidity it would "feel like it was 64C".

Yikes.

But I wondered, while it's bearable for someone like me holidaying in a luxury hotel for a week, what's it actually like living there?

Tom, 29, originally from Brazil, has lived in Dubai for three years and says the UAE is so central with Europe, Africa, Asia and a whole range of incredible holiday destinations just a four to six-hour plane ride away — that most people end up travelling for most of the summer.

"Is it hot? Yes, more than you can imagine," he told news.com.au.

"Can you go outside? No, not from June-September. But (and it's a big but, because in Dubai, everything is about being the biggest, the largest and the best), the city offers enough infrastructure (even air-conditioned bus stops), beach clubs (with chilled pools of course) and entertainment options (malls) that you don't need to go outside, and certainly aren't bored. It's easy to sacrifice four months of extreme heat for eight months of amazing weather and rainless days."

Samantha, 30, from Sydney has lived in Dubai for six years now and says humidity is the real killer, more so than the heat.

"When you walk outside from a nice air-conditioned room it's a bit like opening an oven door when you're too close," she said, "the hot air hits you at once, your glasses fog up, your hands become instantly sweaty and goodbye nice straightened hair, hello cowlicks and boof."

But she adds that despite the bad hair days, Dubai is so well equipped for the heat that it's easy to avoid it for the most part.

"Every taxi, bus, shop, office, mall and restaurant is chilled but the worst bit is that you have to say goodbye to half of the amazing outdoor/rooftop bars and restaurants, and get ready for a few months of inside living (thank God air conditioning is included in the price of rent because I haven't turned mine off in six years!). But despite every bead of sweat during summer, that first refreshing night breeze towards the end of September makes you forget everything until you have to do it all over again the next year."

Fortunately, if you need to cool down, Dubai happens to be home to the world's only indoor ski slope resort. Photo / Getty Images
Fortunately, if you need to cool down, Dubai happens to be home to the world's only indoor ski slope resort. Photo / Getty Images

You'd never know you were in the middle of the desert with the range of activities on offer.

Feel like going skiing? We're not joking. Dubai is home to an indoor ski resort with 22,500 square metres of powder to ski plus the world's largest snow park with tobogganing hills, a twin track bobsled ride and regular snow falls to enjoy.

There's also an Olympic-sized ice skating rink in the middle of one of their biggest shopping malls with several others around town.

It's certainly a city of contrasts.

So, the downside to Dubai in summer? The sweat. The upside? Guaranteed sunshine all year-round and limitless things to do.

On average, it only rains five days per year in Dubai. In fact, last year it only rained on three.

That's at least 360 days of full, glorious sunshine.

A skiing holiday in the desert?

Count me in.

- news.com.au

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