It is well known that Kuwait is one of the hottest countries in the world, if not THE hottest country. But the heat this year is so intense – and summer has just begun – that the weather is the talk of the town these days. Even when the fasting month of Ramadan fell in the hottest months of the year – June, July and August – in the past decade, the topic of temperature wasn’t trending the way it is this year. Luckily, the holy month ended this year just before the blast furnace kicked in.
The past four years have been the hottest on record, and this year seems to be no different. This week, Mitribah in the north of Kuwait recorded the highest temperature worldwide of around 52 degrees Celsius. The rest of Kuwait didn’t fare any better, with the mercury hitting more than 50C in many areas. Mitribah has consistently figured as the hottest place on earth for years, even hotter than Death Valley in California that holds the all-time record for the highest temperature ever recorded (56.7C) in 1913, but which is viewed as suspect by weather historians. An earlier 90-year record held by El Azizia in Libya of 58 degrees Celsius in 1922 was ruled as inaccurate a few years ago.
While some people bicker and sneer that the “hottest” temperature is taken in the shade, it seems this is the only way to measure actual air temperature. According to weather experts, the temperature is the same in the sun or shade – it’s the solar radiation that makes the air feel 10-15 degrees warmer than it actually is, and makes our bodies feel hotter. Moreover, if the thermometer is placed in direct sunlight, it will heat up and record the wrong air temperature.
Meanwhile on social media, everyone is posting images of temperatures of 50C+ as shown by their vehicles’ thermometers. Photoshopped images of the weather display on the meteorological building on the Fifth Ring Road showing a reading of 62 degrees Celsius have been doing the rounds too. And can the memes and jokes be far behind? An image shows Kuwait as a planetary body between the Earth and the Sun. Another message warns of extreme heat conditions – with showers of barbequed birds!
But the birds of Kuwait are smart and know how to protect themselves from the heat, unlike the poor cleaners and construction workers who are forced to venture out and work under the blazing sun for meager pay. Despite an 11 am to 5 pm ban on working outdoors, it is not uncommon to see workers toiling in the open. While it may be true they could be “loose laborers” working outside of their own volition or working for a smalltime contractor with disregard for the law, it is inhuman and could lead to death or injury, apart from financial penalties. Enforcement of the ban should be strict for the safety of all.
Of course, those with time and resources have decamped for cooler climes. This is the peak travel season, with the country emptying out fast. Some unscrupulous travel agencies have taken advantage of those looking for deals, selling fake cut-price tickets and then flying the coop. Even those booking with legit travel agents and websites are allowing themselves to be fleeced, paying top dinar to secure that dream holiday or family vacation. But the exodus means the streets are clearer, and those left behind can enjoy a stress-free commute…one has to look on the bright side of things (or sun-blindingly brightest for that matter).
Stay safe everyone!
By Shakir Reshamwala