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Friday, February 22, 2008

Sleet in Crete and floods in Dubai

Last month there was so much rain in Dubai (for three whole days) that the city flooded and life in the metropolis ground to a halt. Whoever could have expected such weather in an Arabian Gulf city? When we first moved to the Emirates ten years ago it had been so dry that the imans in the mosques were calling for worshippers to pray for rain. Abu Dhabi hadn't see any decent rain in two years. In the guidebooks we wrote on Dubai, we'd tell travellers to visit between December and January when there was guaranteed blue skies and sunshine. These days the sky is often cloudy and grey and it's chilly enough to wear a sweater. Our advice has had to change: wait until February-March or go in October-November. In Crete, over this last week, we've had sleet, hail and snow. Not just in the mountains where this kind of cold weather is normally felt in winter, but in the waterfront cities and resort towns on the Mediterranean sea. We were stuck in our hotel room in Heraklion for three days last weekend while it blew a gale and the wild sea tossed the boats about in the Venetian harbour and snow gathered on our window pane. The locals said they couldn't recall seeing such weather before. Since then we've driven all over the spectacular, isolated, eastern end of the island, and some equally dramatic parts of the central interior and desolate south coast where the mountains meet the sea. We've driven in roads half-buried in snow and slippery with ice, in all kinds of weather - but not the weather one expects in the Mediterranean. And we've driven on pot-holed roads with two lanes that suddenly become one, or that give away entirely altogether, crumbling away to rubble, without guard rails or posts, and it's been a long way down, over a thousand meters above sea level. Believe me, I have dared not look down. I find it incredible that some still doubt that global weather patterns are changing. What's your take on global warming? Has it impacted how you travel?

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