Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hot Enough For Ya?

Before moving to Doha, we knew it was going to be hot.  How bad can it be? I thought.  After all, I had lived through Canadian summers across three provinces and one territory with temperatures sometimes approaching 40C.  I thought it would be refreshing to have consistent temperatures.  I thought it would be manageable.  Actually, I thought it would be kind of nice.

I thought wrong.

Admittedly, the winter here was quite pleasant, and temperatures stayed in the high 20's and low 30's through March and April.  Mercifully, we've so far been spared the 87% humidity that greeted us when we got off the plane in August and stayed with us until November.  But in the last couple of weeks, with the mercury hitting 45C, I thought it was time to give a brief presentation on the basics of heat endurance.  Here is Surviving a Qatar Summer:  A Primer:

If 170F is the temperature at which to safely keep cooked meat to prevent food poisoning, then it’s a safe bet you can put those cooked burgers in your parked car while waiting for your dinner guests to arrive.  But, if you’ve simply parked at the mall for an hour and are hoping to head home, you need to follow a few basic steps.  If you’ve parked in the shade, place one butt cheek gingerly on the driver’s seat, reach around the steering wheel and turn the key in the ignition.  You’ll need to leave the door open for a few minutes while the air conditioning brings the internal temperature down to roughly 60C, at which point you’ll be able to touch the steering wheel with one finger to navigate home.  If, on the other hand, you’ve parked in full sun…may Allah have mercy on your soul.

Walking Outside
You’ve decided to walk to the compound clubhouse, let’s say to buy milk, or to go to the gym.  One block in and you’re committed, so you continue on to the clubhouse with its promise of shade and air-conditioning.  This is the point when you need to ask yourself one question:  Do I continue to walk slowly to conserve energy, but run the risk of my hair spontaneously combusting, OR do I break into a sprint in order to get there faster, but run the risk of all my bodily fluids evaporating before I reach my destination, leaving nothing but the shriveled husk of my former self as carrion for the circling vultures?  Answer carefully.

Never before has shopping for groceries been such an adventure, and a lesson in thermodynamics all rolled into one.  If you’re planning to buy milk, it’s always a good idea to bring a cooler, otherwise that purchase of sour cream was redundant.  If ice cream is on your list, you can also buy frozen butter to help keep it cold, and pack them together in your cooler and hope that it survives the trip.  On second thought, it’s probably safer to pack five spoons and the whole family and just eat it in line at the check-out.

Tap Water
Most villas have water tanks on the roof, which is great for water pressure, but brutal for water temperature.  From about November through March, you can count on lukewarm water coming out of the cold tap.  The rest of the time, the two taps are distinguished by their new temperatures:  hot and scalding.  Laundry at this time of year becomes a challenge, with all loads now being washed in hot water.  So long, black bikini underwear.  Hello, grayish thong.

Picture a sunny clime and one immediately thinks of sundresses, tank tops and shorts.  Not so here.  Out of respect for local culture and religion, women should cover their shoulders and knees.  So, depending on what I'm wearing around the compound, I'll change before going out, often into something more, well, more.  Which usually translates into warmer.  But yeah, I totally get it.  These middle-aged knees of mine can be quite beguiling in a certain light.  However, there is something to be said for wearing a cardigan when it's 47 degrees C outside and entering a mall where the air-conditioning hovers just above freezing.  Maybe they're onto something.

And there you have it, a little advice and some insight into climate in the Gulf.  We're just going to hang out here and wait for this dry spell to pass.  After all, it's not the heat that'll get's the humidity.


  1. You made me laugh out loud several times. Great post. Seriously - I ventured out just this morning to check the mail at the clubhouse, got a little over half way, when I realized Ella was started to melt into her wagon. We drove to the pool for her swim lesson at 10:15... imagine! I think we shold get together and bake some cookies & boil some water for tea on our SUV hoods sometime soon.. hood temp should be perfect for cooking in another month or so.

  2. Just found your blog. And this was posted in May? How you handling the heat now! : )

  3. Kooki, I'm currently in Canada, and the standards for "hot" are a little different here! Can't wait to return to Doha in mid-August and get off the plane for that instant sauna :)