After Qatar and its air-conditioned football stadiums, it is now Abu Dhabi’s turn to create air-conditioned gyms.
In Abu Dhabi, the capital of the wealthy Gulf state, a new pet food and accessories shop has been offering dog-friendly treadmills in an air-conditioned room for the first time in the country for two months.
After being duly attached to a leash by the employees on the machine, Oscar, a two-year-old Welsh Corgi, runs at full speed on the small black mat lined with glass to prevent falls. His owner, Mozalfa Khan, is delighted to have found this place, where she says she comes two or three times a week.
“In the winter, I would take him out, but in the summer, he would stay isolated because every time I took him outside, he would get sick from the heat,” says the young Pakistani expatriate. With high temperatures and suffocating humidity, “he can’t walk around, and after two or three minutes, he wants to go back in,” says the designer living near the shop.
Her vet advised against walking Oscar outside during the summer because of the high risk of heat stroke. “Last summer it was challenging for me because there was no place like this,” recalls Mozalfa Khan.
The United Arab Emirates, like other Gulf countries, experiences long, sweltering summers every year. Most of the inhabitants, about 90% of whom are expatriates from all over the world, remain cloistered in their heavily air-conditioned private or public homes.
As the world suffocates, experts say the Gulf is one of the regions most likely to suffer from rising temperatures due to climate change, with areas that will be potentially unlivable for part of the year.
And it’s a vicious circle: the current heavy use of energy-guzzling air conditioners is contributing to ongoing global warming. Mansour Al-Hammadi, a dog lover, had the idea of importing treadmills into his shop, which sells kibbles and accessories stamped with the logos of luxury brands. And to encourage his customers, he only charged them a “symbolic price” of one dirham, or about 25 euro cents, per minute.
The young Emirati, the owner of three dogs, says he wants to offer an “adapted environment,” recalling that these friends of humans need to exercise to stay physically and mentally fit, at least half an hour a day. “So imagine when you can only walk them for a minute or two a day!” points out Mansour Al-Hammadi.
“We carefully studied the project to make it 100% sound. Everything was chosen carefully and not randomly, to avoid problems and not harm the dogs,” he assures. As night falls on Abu Dhabi, but not in the sweltering heat, Destiny storms into the small gym, playing with the other dogs and climbing on the treadmill.
The seven-month-old Malinois shepherd “gets excited and agitated” every night when it’s time for her session, says owner Fahed Al-Monjed. “For the dog’s health, it’s better for her to exercise and get some exercise. Using an indoor treadmill is the most appropriate solution,” says the Lebanese-German expatriate who works in tourism.
For him, this activity is “very healthy if you want to take care of your dog” because the machines are not automatic and adapt to the speed at which the animal itself wants to run. His dog Destiny, on the other hand, loves high speed. She recently won a speed contest organized by the establishment.