Well, this summer has certainly been a challenge for me regarding the heat! I don't have air conditioning in my host family apartment, and this past weekend with temperatures up to 99 degrees has been rough. Last night I'd say I slept around 3 hours. The heat combined with the massive number of mosquitos made it basically impossible to get comfortable. Tomorrow the weather is predicting up to 105. Well, that's no fun at all. Also, there's no running water today. Rumor has it the water will be back on by this evening. I certainly hope so - a cool bath is really the only way to feel better in this kind of humid heat. Oh, and to make my day more fun, last night my cell phone quit working and this morning my bed collapsed. The excitement never ends!
On a less self-absorbed note, I do wonder how people in this part of the world can manage with such oppressive heat. A few weeks ago I took a long weekend trip to a place that was yet hotter: Dubai, U.A.E. The weather reached 119 while I was there, and apparently it can get even hotter. Walking around in weather like that was almost excrutiating! One day after a couple hours of trekking through markets and such, by the time I got home my pants were entirely soaked through with sweat. Embarrassing, yes, but what can you do? Of course Dubai has learned that the key to survival is air conditioning. Even the bus stops are air conditioned! But how did people survive this before they had this incredible technology?
Dubai is very proud of its traditional architecture featuring elegant wind towers. Due to Muslim custom, uncovered women couldn't be seen by non-family members, so their homes had no windows. Tall towers on each corner provided some ventilation through the house, which apparently was enough to keep people from passing out, which is what I imagine I would do if I had to sit in a windowless room in 119 degree heat all day. I saw many women in Dubai who were covered head to toe in black. Heads covered, and some with even their faces covered. Only their manicured fingers exposed (the museum image above showed a kind of traditional Dubai dress, but not what I saw anyone wearing. They wear robes more like the child mannequin pictured above). Now, I have never walked around all day in this kind of attire, but I can only imagine how stiflingly hot this must be. And yes, I know the U.A.E. claims that it's just tradition that men wear white robes while women wear black; but in the blaring Arabian sun, I'll take a white robe any day. Even in less religious Azerbaijan, there are traditional villages where women are expected to stay inside all day, only leaving when their husbands or fathers are willing to take them out. This lack of freedom is bad enough on an emotional level, but coupled with oppressive Middle Eastern heat, especially in a village that may lack electricity or running water, it basically seems that these women are prisoners in a oven. Women who cover their faces not only have no public identity, they are even deprived of the right to breathe fresh air. We often criticize Middle Eastern countries for depriving women of political rights, but we shouldn't forget that it extends much further than that to physical comfort and safety. Domestic abuse is staggeringly high. Forced and early marriage is commonplace. In Saudi Arabia, little girls were left to die in a burning building because their heads weren't covered. And as we've all recently seen, women accused of adultery can even be sentenced to death by stoning. I just can't believe that this is what any God would want for half of the population of his followers.