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Top 5 tips when walking in a sandstorm

February 27, 2010
Training hike on Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE

Hiking on Jumeirah Beach. Click this image to see more pics.

This week’s group training activity with Gulf for Good was a walk along the entire length of Jumeirah Beach.  I’d missed this when I had bronchitis and was really keen to do it especially as dogs aren’t allowed on the beach in Dubai, so I usually walk about a third of this route relegated to the pavement.  Bea, my 11 year- old daughter, said she’d come with me so I woke her while it was still dark and we fumbled about as we found there was no electricity.  The first major crisis was averted – I could make tea by heating water over gas – or I might have had to cancel!  My husband, lie-in completely disturbed by my clattering into things, drove us to the car park near the Dubai Marine Beach Resort.

The wind was swirling around making the palm trees sway and even though it was early in the morning it felt warm, muggy and sandy – the beginning of a shamal or sandstorm.  We were a mixed group, old and young, fit and less fit, with some people already signed up for challenges in Lebanon, Kilimanjaro and Cuba and others still making up their minds.  We walked at a brisk pace with the oncoming wind and the sand underfoot providing extra resistance.  I decided to test out my accumulated hiking gear as it is too late to find out if something rubs or is uncomfortable when you are halfway up a mountain in Lebanon.  My Camelbak for water was great but walking boots and thick socks in 30 °C lead to some very strange looks from passersby.  The weather conditions meant that the beach was nearly deserted and we could walk nearly the entire 13km on sand with the blue Arabian Gulf (can I still say this?!) to our right and some splendid villas and palaces to our left.  There were a few detours onto the side roads, a clamber over rocks and through the middle of a fishing port.  We actually walked through the fishermen’s living area which caused them great amusement but what we saw was a huge contrast to the earlier splendour.  The men sleep in igloo-shaped huts made of sticks and material, resembling oversized lobster pots.  There was just enough room to fit a tiny bed inside.  Conditions must be particularly grim when temperatures soar in the summer.

We also saw all manner of boats along this coastline from tiny rowing boats, to gleaming speed boats and gin palaces to elegant, wooden racing dhows.  By the end of the walk the going was tough; Bea and I bade the group farewell on Umm Suqeim Beach as we could walk home rather than taxi.  With the sand whipping into our faces we reached our front door in just under 3 hours (to restored electricity thank goodness).  So these are my top tips (with tongue firmly in cheek) for walking in a sandstorm:

  1. Wear a hat with a big brim to protect your face from a micro-dermabrasion session.
  2. Sports sun protection (that dries to nothing) is essential if you do not want to resemble a pebble-dashed wall.
  3. If you wear lip-salve make sure it’s not the sticky stuff or you’ll feel like you’ve eaten a doughnut without licking your lips.
  4. WAG mega-sized sunglasses are essential.
  5. Surround yourself with a lovely team from Gulf for Good and you’ll hardly notice the stinging on your legs or contemplate how you will ever get the sand out of your ears.

P.S. Training going well but I’m booked in with my friend who is a personal trainer on Thursday as I need to walk uphill on a treadmill.  I haven’t used a gym for over 14 years so I’m very apprehensive.  Ann, be kind to me.

  1. February 27, 2010 7:10 pm

    Amazing Sally, I don’t think I could even walk 13km in my current state of poor health I do wish you well and your blog is inspiring to read. One thing I might add to your top tip in a shamal is keep your mouth closed otherwise you will be eating sand which is really unpleasant. I like the idea of the glasses which really is a must. I remember when living in Kuwait and going into our underground parking only to find that in rolling down the window to use my access key a shamal blew sand into my eyes and I was in a bad way for a couple of hours doing multiple rinses with Optrex.

    Keep going you will manage I have every confidence in you, it is lovely that Beatrice is supporting you (not forgetting the dogs):-)


  2. February 27, 2010 7:13 pm

    Next time you are doing Mushrif call me. I’ll walk you cycle! xx


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