I arrived back in the Netherlands last Saturday afternoon, after a long overnight journey from Dar Es Salaam to Amsterdam with a layover in Cairo. Exhausted from an incomplete night’s sleep on the plane, I had a long afternoon nap when I got back to our apartment. When I woke up, I felt hungry and I suggested to my boyfriend that we go out for dinner.
We went out in search of a restaurant, but the first one we went into near our place said their kitchen was closed and they had stopped serving. It’s Saturday night – I’m confused. “What time is it?” I ask my boyfriend. It was 10:00pm! Ten o’clock at night! I hadn’t the slightest clue it was so late, because when I woke up from my nap it was still completely light outside. I was dumbstruck.
I spent the last four months in the Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa, where the sun would rise each day around 6:30am and set each day around 6:30pm (which means the sun would start going down in the sky around 4pm). In Mozambique, it was dark by as early as 5pm. I had become used to these rhythms of light, and completely forgotten how late the sun can set in northern Europe in the summer. I was reminded of a summer I spent living in Scotland years ago, where you could go out for drinks at 10pm and find the street lights hadn’t been switched on yet.
The effect is magical– you get the guilty but joyous sensation of having cheated a few more hours out of the day than you should have had, like a kid stealing an extra cookie out of the cookie jar. The evenings are so long that you can come home from work, chill out for a bit, go for a walk, have a picnic in the park, do some shopping, and still arrive home before sunset. And a beer or a coffee can be enjoyed outside on a terrace in the waning summer light.