It was 6 pm and 48 degrees, but we had finally managed to get to the pool. It was packed, pool and loungers. Tuesday is a night when the sauna is women only, so all the hairy muscular little guys who spend a happy evening hanging out in the eternal triangle between sauna, steam room and "plung" pool had per force to hang out in the olympic (well nearly) sized pool. They were two or three to a lane - some of them just hanging out, but enough of them were doing showy splashy lengths up and down to make us think twice about getting in ourselves. The length markers are quite close together and we both hate colliding with others or being jostled.
We both behaved characteristically. I flopped onto the nearest available lounger like a beached whale and started to read, or at least look at, my book. It was Boris Johnson's collected bits, purloined from the library and not bad: he has a good turn of phrase and some decent enough instincts, at least in journalism, but a bit of a tendency to grandstand. It was not quite absorbing enough to prevent me flapping my ears at the possible international flirtation going on amongst the loungers to my left. Barrie, instead, paced the poolside, poised like a hawk (if hawks wear swimming trunks, which I rather doubt) to leap in as soon as a lane was free.
I must have nodded off - no surprises there, as I was exceeding knackered. When I surfaced, Barrie was submerged. It was full night now, and two small, smooth clouds gleamed low down in the sky. Gradually, though, the sky to the west began to be overcast as a continuous blanket of cloud pulled across from the direction of Oman.
Suddenly there was thunder, a long, low, distant rumble, but I had not seen any lightening. What happened next, though, was that the air began to cool and rush about - gusts blowing this way and that. People were getting out of the pool, and the kiddie pool began to empty. It was still hot, though, and some of the gusts of wind were warmer than others - warmer, and grittier. The cloud continued to draw across the sky, which told us that the wind high up was steadily blowing from the wet, whereas the wind and ground level was coming from all sides. I had grit in my eyes, and the taste of it between my teeth.
Barrie got out and came and sat beside me under a towel. Everyone else had disappeared. We kept wondering whether it had started to rain, or was starting to rain, as from time to time we each thought we had felt a drop - but every time we could not be sure it wasn't just a spray from the pool.
The lightening came, and we counted for the thunder, which was sharper, and much closer. I kept saying "Rain. Come on, rain". All week I had been wanting half an hour's rain to settle the dust and relieve the endless heat. Over the wall in the date orchard the palm trees were thrashing about. Barrie counted the next one lightening strike off and declared the storm was 8 kilometres away - about half the distance it had been, and closing fast.
Suddenly a huge wave of pinky-yellow rose behind the trees in front of us, like a mammoth lifting its head, and moving closer and to the right. It was a cloud of dust, or sand, picked up from the dry wadi that lies beyond the hotel's irrigated gardens, and which extends right down to the border. It loomed and moved, fast, against the direction the little gusts of wind were mainly coming from, and like a thing with a mind of its own: I'm going this way; you do what you like. Its yellowy pinkness was partly from the colour of the sands and partly from the neon lights around the hotel reflecting off its dusty flanks.
Then the rain started, spots and spits and then a proper stream and downpour of rain. Although we were sitting under the awning, we were wet. And cold enough to shiver: the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees. Lovely rain, the smell of wet earth. Even the hotel lawn, which is as denatured as astroturf, smelled suddenly of grass.
Then I swam. I'm not quite foolhardy enough to swim in a thunderstorm, but after the rain had passed over and headed away to Sarooj, it was time. The water was cool and filled with shards of palm leaf and large, bemused beetles like black volkswagens. As I got out I could see a bright star just under the edge of the cloud... almost impossibly bright, so that I thought it was a plane heading directly towards me, but after ten minutes it was still where it was.
As we drove away, the car temperature gauge said 38 degrees. It was twenty past eight in the evening.
There was no rain in Falaaj Hazaa, where we live.
It was still hot.