Just before midday on Saturday, this correspondent was strolling through downtown Dubai city when there was a sudden gust of wind. Two seconds later, my eyes were full of sand. At 2.55pm, it started to rain, and in Dubai they do not do anything half-measure. When it rains, it rains for keeps, and minutes later, visibility was down to 25yds.
The obvious question was: why isn't the weather forecaster tipping horses instead? But then the man with the hotline to the heavens must also have been aware that there would be no racing at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday, And anyway, he was wrong about the thunderstorm. It arrived two hours early.
The average annual rainfall in Dubai is measured in thimblefuls, so when they build roads and racecourses they tend to ignore features which in most countries would be considered essential. Drains, for instance. On the way to the track, much of the road was already submerged, and the course was little better. A golf buggy had been abandoned down by the home turn, and the only way it was getting off the circuit was by flotation. Such was the downpour that if Nad Al Sheba had been built on a slight incline, the entire edifice would have drifted slowly and elegantly towards the sea.
In the press tent, Brough Scott, Dubai World Cup Committee member and a man who could be chipper for Britain at the Olympics, relayed the latest news to 300 reporters from every continent. With each hopelessly optimistic bulletin, the rain on the roof upped the tempo. At last there was the inevitable announcement, that the World Cup had been abandoned. And at that precise moment, the rain stopped. One veteran member of the racing press corps poked his nose out of the tent. "Hmmm," he said. "Turned out nice again."