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Unbelievably hot August 2, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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I stayed in a nice “guesthouse”, instead of a hotel. It gets hotter there in the small-town suburbs than in the cities, maybe 112 was the lowest high temperature and some days were 116, with the humidity still be extra high because the Gulf coast was only a few kilometers away, 80% to 85%. The combination was the hottest climate I have ever been in. It makes the temperatures in Phoenix or the Central Valley of California or in the southern US seem pretty mild. But they have great air conditioning!

One thing I thought of is that the robes Arab men wear are white and help a little to keep a person cool, but the burqa or hajib that a woman wears is most often black. That must be stifling for even a minute out in the sun. Is that another way to keep women sequestered?

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1. The Chemist - August 3, 2009

I got used to the heat when I was living there. I always liked to walk around a lot, and I’d walk about two or so miles home from school every now and again. Most people run from one air-conditioned space to the next these, but my parents and grandparents remember a time in the Gulf without air-conditioning.

The black abaya (the cloak-like dress) is merely “popular”. There is nothing really stopping people from wearing white ones any more than there is anything stopping men from wearing black robes (I have a black dish-dash in my closet). The black is just a default.

You’ve spent most of your time in the Gulf, so most hijabs are black. Black is not as common in the Levant. There white hijabs are much more common, despite the weather being a little more mild. That said, the material is typically thinner (chiffon or somesuch) than what the men are wearing.

I think the more appropriate word in this case isn’t sequestered, but “segregated”. The sort of color differentiation going on is more about separateness than relegation. I don’t really like to defend the dress code there, it’s an annoyance at best and a barrier at worst, but I always feel that there is a tendency in the West to overstate its demerits.

Also, Arabs don’t usually use the word “burka” except when specifically referring to the stereotypical Afghan style of dress (which is traditionally blue for whatever reason). This is changing a little as more Westerners are using it as a catch-all term and Arabs will resort to it more frequently. I went to Wikipedia to back up my point on this, only to find that the article on the subject is a disaster. I don’t think I had heard the word “burka” spoken up until I was thirteen or so, and I was watching a CNN piece on Afghanistan at the time (pre-2001).

2. fetzthechemist - August 3, 2009

Thanks for the comment. I used to love the summer weather in the South, too, but got de-acclimated to it.

I used burqa only for Westerners to understand. They hear that way more than Hajib. In the Gulf I only heard hajib, and dish-dasha and goutra for the robe and headpiece. It just struck me as a color contrast. The hajib material doesn’t look too light, especially if it is 115 and 85 % humidity.

I was in the boonies of al Shahama, a good ways towards Dubai. A different place than the city.


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