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14 July, 2006

Blowing hot and cold

When first arriving in Dubai in July 2001 and staying in the glorious concrete splendour of Golden Sands 5, the bathroom taps were something of a puzzle. They were wrongly labelled for a start. The hot (marked cold) got piping hot, but never scalding. No matter, since it was July, and boiling showers weren't particularly appealing.

It was several weeks before one of the hotel staff pointed out the water heater switch.

In fact the taps weren't reversed at all. The hot water was actually sitting in some form of insulated tank, not being heated. The cold water was sitting in some unsheltered rooftop tank, exposed to 50c heat day in day out, and was extremely hot.

Most buildings in Dubai are like this. The "switchover" - when you stop using the water heater, and let the taps swap their roles, is the definitive sign that summer has arrived. There can be an uneasy period in Spring and Autumn where the cold is not quite warm enough, but if you put the heater on, the cold is too warm to dilute the hot.

It's not mandatory in UAE construction law to build sheltered water tanks, so this uniquely Gulf phenomenon is likely to continue for some time to come.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which makes you wonder why on earth they don't have solar water heaters instead of those electric heaters. But then what would you do for cold water? Hmmmmmmm....

14 July, 2006 04:19  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


I had the same reaction in 9/92 in Al-Ain!

I thought, what idiots put this place together they reversed the hot & cold water. It took me a couple of days to figure it out.

I remember travelling on a trip to Africa we flew out of Al-Ain to Oman and laid-over in the Seeb Novatel and they had signs explaining it to the guests.

Ahhhh memories!

14 July, 2006 07:13  
Blogger Keef said...

Well I hope it continues forever: it's one of the very few examples of the UAE actually using all that free heat from the sun to do something useful.

14 July, 2006 08:01  
Blogger nzm said...

I like it when we can turn off the power to the hot water cylinder in our apartment.

It makes for some entertainment explaining the hot/cold H20 methodology to any overseaas guests who brave to stay with us over the summer!

14 July, 2006 11:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like this post. You must have been in a really good mood. It certainly is unique to the gulf (I don't know of any other region that has this issue dealt with in this manner).

I really like it though. I agree with keefieboy in that it gives us hot water without having to use electricity.

I'm personally a big fan of hot showers. If I don't feel my bones have weakened from the hot water, I just don't feel I have been clean enough :)

It is worth noting however, that in Qatar, the situation is a lot worse. I remember scalding myself once. At least, the summer of '96 was that bad.

14 July, 2006 12:49  
Blogger halfmanhalfbeer said...

Great post! It always amuses me trying to explain this to guests that stay during the hotter months, they look at you not really knowing whether to believe you or not.

I also arrived in July 2001 and stayed in the delight that is Golden Sands (3). Odd, eh?! 5 year anniversary coming up. I'm thinking about putting up a post on what I've seen and learnt in the past 5 years, perhaps we should compare notes!

Have a good weekend.

14 July, 2006 14:13  
Blogger Shaper85 said...

I actually leave my hot water heater on during the summer because I like my showers with boiling hot water. It really is refreshing.

14 July, 2006 14:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that we are having a cool summer as we have not yet had to swithc over and its mid july.

14 July, 2006 16:37  
Blogger 3li said...

I dont bother anymore, I just get scalded :-)

14 July, 2006 17:34  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Ohh I recall in & around summertime one had to be careful in Al-Ain as the cold water would get hot enough to cause minor or not so minor burns.

Another thing was the covers of the tanks are not always secured very well. So you can get things in the tank and cause the water to get fouled. It wasn't uncommon to hear about birds getting trapped and drowning in the tanks, of course that did not add anything pleasant to the water.

14 July, 2006 20:00  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

14 July, 2006 22:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont know if any one else had to go through this but... i couldnt wash myself after i did # 2 because the water was too hot! Yeah i use the pipe that is attached to the toilet seat (one of the few comforts of living in Dubai). But some nutjob has linked this to the tank sitting on top of my house - so the water that comes out burns my a$$ho13!

14 July, 2006 22:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 2006 22:51
ROFL ... thanks for that. For a change I have started my day with a laugh!

15 July, 2006 07:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right about Al Ain! You don't even have to boil water for tea. You can use it straight out of the tap! And oh, somehow try and avoid doing "#2" in the daytime.

15 July, 2006 10:18  
Blogger modthing said...

Wow! Freedom of expression reaches new heights (sorry for the diversion). Comments on posts in the UAE Community blog are now restricted to team members. Yep, that should keep it all in the family.

I know there may be reasons for it, SD, but isn't it about time the name of the blog is changed to something else? I mean, "Community" blog?

15 July, 2006 11:22  
Blogger trailingspouse said...

I remember arriving in Golden Sands 3 in July and finding that the "cold" water was so hot that steam was rising from the toilet bowl after you flushed . . . most unpleasant.

15 July, 2006 11:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

perhaps this is a point of differentiation that the great property developers can think about.

15 July, 2006 12:37  
Blogger secretdubai said...

modthing - there's a post explaining why here. We really are hoping to switch back to open commenting asap.

Please note that we're welcoming anyone for membership who wants to comment, even if they're not in the UAE, or not currently blogging.

15 July, 2006 13:00  
Blogger Blogger said...

this is the same thing that happens when you have a boat LOL

15 July, 2006 15:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well.. when i use to work for airport hotel back in the days.. i remember guests asking me the same question... do we get cold water here.. and i am like yeah sure turn on the red tap.. and often i would get a stare... as if i am taking them for a ride... lol

15 July, 2006 19:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok now while we are in the reading and typing mood.. a thought just came to me... the HR sector is gone so is the secratarial.. and high mgmt is mostly locals.. any ways am talking abt private sector.. so give or take ther are around another 20000 young locals or more in school and universities.. so abt 5 to 6 yrs from now they will all be graduated and will be engineers .. and in other feilds.... get my flow..... i guess its time to move on from dubai... it wont be long before.. expats will be a minority in the work class...the only people who will be here are holidayers or labours..who will have unions.. so labours will have some rights... and thats abt it.... hello conspiracy theory... sheikh mo knows he is gonna throw us out.. but i guess he is just being subtle.

15 July, 2006 19:47  
Blogger snow white said...

I used to get a perverse pleasure from flicking the water heater switch off for a few months in the summer, and keeping my well-earned dirhams away from DEWA.

15 July, 2006 22:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anonymous users are prevented from posting, that will kill your blogs dead.

16 July, 2006 10:32  
Blogger secretdubai said...

If anonymous users are prevented from posting, that will kill your blogs dead.

It didn't before, so I doubt it would again.

16 July, 2006 11:04  
Blogger Insipid Chagrin said...


Yes, the switching over of taps is a defining moment in the advent of glorious summer!
Funnily enough, I'm currently residing in an oldish building in the heart of Diera, where they've thoughtfully provided some manner of insulation, etc for the tank. I'm now bamboozled, stuck in stasis between hot and cold taps. Oh, utter limbo. It's a dilemma shaving every morning. Hot? Cold? Cold? Hot? Which one?

I loved the Dinglish article. 6 Days has finally come up with something genuinely amusing. Didn't Do a Dallas originate somewhere in the confines of this blog??

My favourite entries were Dubiquity and Duperlative!

16 July, 2006 13:44  
Blogger Georgia said...

Gotta love the warm surprise that sometimes happens when you clean your teeth and forget abut the switchover. You just don't get the same "fresh mouth feeling" with warm water. But spare a thought for a guy I know who scalded his bottom with the bum hose on the loo...

23 July, 2006 13:33  

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