Thursday, December 1, 2011
You all know the perfect picnic weather, right? Bright, sunny day with a cool, gentle breeze. Not too warm, not too cold. Colorful flowers dotting the landscape with an occasional fluffy, white cloud dotting the blue sky.
And if dark, gray clouds accompanied by a bitter, misty gust come rumbling across the sky, everyone packs up and goes scurrying for cover.
Well, not everyone.
Here in Saudi, where the scorching sun shines over the desert land for most of the year, a gloomy, dreary forecast – which most of the world despises - cheers up the locals and has them rushing out to the desert to snatch up prime picnic real estate.
They get giddy when the forecast includes light showers and a deep chill. When this type of weather strikes (which typically will last for a day or two), many employees call in sick, kids miss school, and college campuses are empty. Most of Riyadh can be found picnicking out in the cool, wet desert.
During my first six years or so, I used to get a real kick out of this phenomenon. I would laugh to myself, ‘How in the world can one enjoy a picnic in such overcast, gloomy weather?’
Only after having lived in the desert climate for almost 10 years have I begun to appreciate the citywide excitement when a cold, winter shower hits the area. You see, it’s a rare occasion, which brings with it the blessings of rain - much appreciated and celebrated in this dry, arid land. It is only in these rare moments that Saudis are able to bundle up, start up a nice, warm campfire, and enjoy the wet, misty air with a cup of Arabic coffee.
And the occasional drizzle on their picnic is a source of joy instead of dejection. The picnic temporarily relocates into the vehicle, or a tent for the more adventurous intent on camping out for the entire day, and everyone goes back out when the rain stops.
The ideal location for such a picnic is anywhere water has collected, which is why you’ll find rain-induced lakes (really just glorified puddles) in the desert surrounded by jeeps and trucks, with people huddled around a fire and children playing in the sand.
Having grown up in Baltimore, I despised the cloudy, rainy weather and was overjoyed when I initially moved to sunny Saudi. But it’s taken me almost 10 years to get over my honeymoon with the sun and now I too get “misty”-eyed (see what I did there?) when the weather turns gray and chill.