I was recently asked if I would take a trip to Dubai and the first thing that popped into my head (besides bloody hell, aren’t I lucky) was ‘yes!’ An escape from the relentless grey skies and thundering, sopping, drenching British rain.
Dubai has never been too far up on my travel wishlist but, at this time of year, it means red deserts and golden sunshine. It means a legitimate excuse to wear sunglasses in February, a chance to break out summer clothes early and to just sit, face up in the white light, letting the warmth coat my skin, saturating it in a glowing halo. It also means suncream, and lots of it for me. Being fair-skinned I only ever manage a light dusting of gold when I try to sunbathe and, after spending too much time in the sun travelling and watching my freckles breed and multiply at an alarming rate, I doubt I’ll ever be a sun worshipper.
I did try to be once though, years ago on a bleached-white beach in Ko Tao, Thailand…although it didn’t go quite as planned.
“The sea, the sand, the air. It is all so slow, so soft. Like a drug. It makes you slow and soft as well. Damp sponges soaked in salt water and salty sweat.
I feel serene here. Completely and perfectly lazy like a coddled child. Your daily routine is all picked and chartered for you: wake, up, eat, dress, walk and lie down and pass the day in a haze, revelling in your lack of an agenda.
Your flesh is slick with heat here, you feel every tiny breeze like a gift. A whisper over your gleaming skin and you are grateful. The water is warm. Green by the sandbanks and turquoise where the sun touches it.”
“Your day boils down to sensations. The sting of salt water, the scratch of sand in the suncream, the cool wind on your arched back and the burn of the sun, white-hot and blinding.
I think I looked like a skinned rabbit. Laid out flat, pink and raw and exposed. The hairs on my arms shine white. Albino…”
“The water tricked us. So cool, so green, so inviting. So we swam in its crocodile jaws, shedding our white armour in the waves. It was as if I had flown into the sun itself. I am roasted, boiled, as if I had been slapped by a giant burning hand. I feel damaged, tender, like a snake about to shed, revealing baby pink flesh underneath.”
I seem to remember I then had mild sunstroke followed by a cold…always follow the golden rule: don’t be that burnt Brit abroad, re-apply suncream after swimming!