Sandstorm In The City

I experienced my first sand storm this past weekend.  I was in Dubai most of the weekend so I missed a bit of the experience in Oman, but the thoughts and concerns about a sand storm are similar.

Until this weekend I thought the small, one hour long, sideways wind with a bit of dust blowing around which we have had in the past was the extent of a sandstorm in the city.  Outside of that experience I was a little clueless and my reference for sandstorms came from the movies.

Our 45-minute flight between Muscat and Dubai was terrifyingly turbulent.  The kind of turbulence that makes you wish you hadn’t gotten on the plane in the first place.  I had no idea what was going on outside of the plane.

When the wheels finally struck ground, I jumped and gripped Brad’s arm so tightly it is a shock that I didn’t leave a mark.  The landing was rough, but not so terrible I would have expected myself to react that way.  Despite the announcement that we were landing, the periphery view outside the window never changed.  There was no visual hint that we had changed altitude. It was almost a solid white. I was simply not expecting to touch ground yet.

The clouds or fog – what I thought was fog - was actually sand.  It was as if the fog had become slightly sepia in color or as if a sheer eggshell color curtain was dangling between the rest of the world and myself.

The dust curtain.

The dust curtain.

As I walked down the plane steps and onto the runway my eyes stung from the tiny dust fragments in the air. 

On the bus trip to the terminal I asked what was happening.  A woman that has lived in Oman eight years said, “It’s a sandstorm” and I stupidly uttered the phrase, “Like, in the movies? This is real?” Seriously, did I let that come out of my mouth?  How ignorant.

For a couple of seconds I imagined Lawrence of Arabia might roll up on a camel.  Brad leaned down and whispered in my left ear, “Are you going to pretend you’re on Mission Impossible next?” Apparently, my imagination is predictable.

We had come to Dubai with Brad’s rugby team for the end of season rugby match.  Around 4:00PM we found ourselves at the grounds for his match.  The sideline the fans were standing along faced the wind.

If you were standing near us you may have heard things like:

·      I’m going to regret this eyeliner with my eyes watering this bad,

·      Crap, man, I suppose I wore exfoliating lip gloss today,

·      I feel like I’m standing in front of a warm hair dryer on high,

·      I’m covered in a film of sand, I didn’t plan on having sand in my mouth, and

·      Why did I even try to curl my hair, this wind is ridiculous.

While this clearly reveals that we were all dressed nicely for dinner and were pouting that we were going to have to start our hair and makeup all over again, it is a perfect description.

Imagine, you’re standing in a powerful wind, enough to make you double check your balance, the heat of a hair dyer blowing against your face making your skin dry, hot and uncomfortable and every couple of minutes someone sprinkles fine sand in front of the dryer so it gets in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and coats your lip gloss and skin.

The experience was bizarre. The simple description of how it feels is not enough because it can last for days and cause plenty of disruption and damage.

A friend in Oman claimed the visibility was “just like the worst fog in England” and the Times of Oman photos prove that to be true.  Accident rates increased because of the lack of visibility, residents were encouraged to close up their homes and ensure their air intake was filtered, and when we returned to the airport in Muscat the parking attendant asked us if our car was alright, if anything had been broken and told us to review the car for damage.  We were fortunate this time and nothing was broken.

Overall, the people that live here take sandstorms and all of their glory in stride.  It is akin to how we, in the Pacific Northwest, would process a winter storm that rips trees from the ground and breaks windows.  You prepare, you hope for the best and you just keep on moving. 

I can report, without any doubt, that sandstorms aren’t just in the movies.

The visibility only three blocks away.

The visibility only three blocks away.