Day 255: Life in the Gilt Lane

Luxury cars, the world's tallest building, and 39 new birds in United Arab Emirates.

September 12, 2015: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — The forecast for Abu Dhabi every day this week calls for a high between 40 and 42C (103-108F). As I write this, at 9 pm, it’s still 97 degrees outside and humid. Today was officially the hottest day I’ve experienced on this adventure!

It was also the only full day I will spend in the Middle East this year, and Oscar, Mark, and I made the most of it. We were in a patch of sandy desert outside of Dubai when the sun came up and kept birding until we watched the sun set over the Oman border fence this evening. 

The United Arab Emirates is an interesting place to spend a day. Eighty percent of this nation’s five million residents weren’t born here, and the country is awash in oil revenues and mysterious sheiks. Gas costs a third of what people pay at the pump in Europe. Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two largest cities in the UAE, are gold-gilded and larger than life: This evening I watched the bright spire of the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) while traveling on a 12-lane freeway packed with Mercedes, Porches, Range Rovers, and BMWs (no Toyota Noahs here). This ain’t East Africa anymore! The local mall in Dubai has a ski resort insidenever mind that it’s in a stifling desert. “Instead of asking why, people in the UAE ask why not?” said Oscar.

Our best bird today was almost as out of place as the ski hill. Mark suggested we stop at an irrigated field to look for White-tailed Lapwings (any drop of water draws birds like a magnet), and, while we checked out the lapwings, Oscar said, “Hey, what’s this warbler?” Our attention focused on a small, lime-olive-green creature crawling within a nearby bush. It showed us only one body part at a timea supercilium here, a wing bar therebefore popping into full view. “Whoa, it’s a Green Warbler!” shouted Mark and Oscar practically simultaneously, homing in on the bird’s features with well-practiced precision. This species has been recorded in the UAE only about 10 times, and was a lifer for me. Nice!

The day went past in a flash. I have a feeling that this layover will soon feel like a dream, as I’m poised to hit India tomorrow morning. These transitions never get easier to comprehend: Uganda one day, the UAE the next, and India the next. Where am I? And what day of the week is it? Wait, what’s my name again?

New birds today: 39

Year list: 4244

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