As Europe swelters in record-breaking heat, Arabs offer some expert advice on keeping your cool

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Soaring temperatures have forced many countries to issue states of emergency. (Shutterstock photo)
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Modern air-conditioned malls have become a favorite destination when temperatures soar. (Shutterstock photo)
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Traditional-style homes in Saudi Arabia have their own cooling systems.
Updated 08 August 2018
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As Europe swelters in record-breaking heat, Arabs offer some expert advice on keeping your cool

BUDAPEST, Hungary: While Europeans are experiencing a rare but increasingly typical heatwave this summer, for Arabs it is business as usual. Every year, Middle Easterners complain about the weather, but then brush it off as they fan themselves while reaching for a plate of freshly cut fruit.

As temperatures in Europe soar, the continent is feeling the heat in places as far north as the Arctic Circle, with temperatures at least 10 degrees Celsius above average, and as far south as the Amalfi Coast and Iberian Peninsula, with record-breaking temperatures exceeding 35 degrees.

This week, a supermarket in Helsinki opened its doors for one night and had 100 shoppers sleeping in its aisles as temperatures hit 30 degrees. 

Temperatures were expected to peak on Tuesday in France, Portugal, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and eastern Europe. More than a million children returned to school on Monday in three German states, but some were allowed to go home earlier than planned due to the heatwave as temperatures are expected to spike midweek to about 39 degrees.

People are heading to beaches and pools to cool down, but to no avail. With the long summer days and short nights, the heat lingers throughout the evening. 

The summer of 2018 looks set to be one of the hottest on record. In the first week of August, areas in southeast Portugal and southwest Spain has temperatures of 47 degrees, higher than most Middle Eastern cities.

While heatwaves have forced many countries around the world to issue states of emergency, residents of the Middle East are no strangers to scorching summers.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the other Gulf states have grown accustomed to the heat. As Manar Saud, a head administrator based in Riyadh, put it (one might say coolly): “There’s no real advice that could be given to our European neighbors. We’ve just become immune and no one is complaining.” 

Many Gulf residents prefer to stay indoors or cool off in air-conditioned malls, cafes and homes, a luxury not found in many European cities, where homes are designed to conserve heat in the long winter months and air-conditioning units are rare.

Hala Radwan, a marketing consultant in Riyadh and Jeddah, has experienced a few hot summers while studying at Grenoble University in France. “The best advice I’d give would be to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Starting off with a cold shower in the morning, a glass of cold water and snacking on water-based fruits and vegetables like watermelon and cucumbers throughout the day will regulate your internal temperature,” Radwan said.

“Sleeping with an ice pack under the pillow and with a light bed sheet or a light throw helps as well. Europeans don’t use ACs, but with a fan and light sheets, nights are tolerable.”

“Carrying light bags or purses and wearing light materials help with feeling airy and light,” said Maha Nasef, a life coach based in Jeddah and the US. “Having a water spray or misting fan while drinking cool beverages throughout the day helps with relieving the heat. We’re used to having air-conditioning units on everywhere in Saudi. It’s different in the US.” 

Moudhi Sameer, a 30-year-old Kuwaiti ESL instructor, said that eating a breakfast infused with hot green chili helps to cool her down. The evaporation of sweat cools the body, a trick she learned during a trip to India.

Saudi beauty blogger Heyam Omar has seen her fair share of heatwaves while in Chicago. “I never leave home without my fan or a high-SPF sun screen,” she said. The blogger also offers tips on how to stay fresh-faced and cool this summer. 

“I drink cool drinks and fan myself all through my outing. We walk everywhere just as Europeans do, ride the buses and trains to move around. But as soon as I feel the heat getting to me, I stop whatever I’m doing and head to the nearest building away from the sun to cool down.”

Arabs for years have designed their homes to deal with the heat of the region. Long before air-conditioning units were developed, residents of the Western Region built homes several floors high to accommodate several rooms with the family sleeping quarters at the top. Windows covered with wooden lattices, known as “rawasheen” or “shanasheel,” helped the air flow throughout the house and keep it cool.

My late aunt once explained how our family home in Makkah was designed long before there were any electrical appliances and the typical household units we have now. The family slept in Al-mabeet, or sleeping quarters, with an adjoining Al-kharja, or open balcony, where a mosquito net tied to the walls created a canopy around the mattresses.

“My mother, siblings and I wet the mosquito nets every night in summer,” Um Mohammed told me. “Mosquitoes were common in Makkah during summer. The net wasn’t only to protect us, but also cooled us down as the breeze passed through Al-mabeet.”

If there is one lesson Arabs can teach about enduring heatwaves, it’s that it can be done. But one thing is certain: It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

Anyone up for a gelato?


Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

This combination of the Oct. 2, 2017 file photos shows Indonesian Siti Aisyah, left, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, right, escorted by police as they leave a court hearing in Shah Alam, Malaysia, outside Kuala Lumpur. (AP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

  • Evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins
  • The women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Two Southeast Asian women on trial in Malaysia for the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother could be acquitted Thursday or called to enter their defense in a case that has gripped the world.
Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show.
They are the only two suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted. If the defense is called, the trial could take several more months.
If the women are acquitted, they may not be freed right away as prosecutors could still appeal the decision as well as push forward with separate charges for overstaying their visas.

Here’s a look at arguments that were raised during the trial:
THE PROSECUTION
Over the course of the six-month trial featuring testimony from 34 people, prosecutors laid out a bizarre murder plot they likened to something from a James Bond film.
They accused four North Koreans, suspected government agents with code names such as “Mr. Y” and “Grandpa” and later identified by police, of being the masterminds who recruited the women, trained them and provided them with VX. All four fled the country the same morning Kim was killed and none are in custody.
Airport security footage shown in court captured the moment of the attack and prosecutors said linked the women to the other suspects. Shortly after Kim arrived at the airport, Huong was seen approaching him, clasping her hands on his face from behind and then fleeing. Another blurred figure was also seen running away from Kim and a police investigator testified that it was Aisyah.
Investigators said the women were seen rushing to separate washrooms, each with their hands outstretched, before they fled the airport. Kim died within two hours of the attack.
A government chemist testified that the VX concentration found on Kim’s skin was 1.4 times greater than the lethal dosage. He said VX was found in Kim’s eyes, face, blood, urine and clothing, as well as on both women’s clothes and on Huong’s fingernail clippings.
In his closing arguments in June, prosecutor Wah Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said the women must have been trained to use VX, a rare nerve agent developed as a chemical weapon. He said they had to know the best route for VX to enter the victim’s body and know that they must wash the nerve agent off themselves within 15 minutes to avoid being contaminated.
With Kim a tall and heavy man, the prosecutor said the women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration. Despite their claim about a prank, he said their facial expressions and conduct during the attack didn’t reflect any humor.
“We expect that the defense will be called for a simple reason: They need to explain why VX was found on them,” Wan Shaharuddin told The Associated Press.

THE DEFENSE
Lawyers for the two women say their clients were simply pawns in a politically motivated killing with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
They say the prosecution’s case was too simplistic, handicapped by a sloppy investigation and failed to show any intention on the part of their clients to kill — key to establishing the women’s guilt.
The defense said evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins, pointing out that they didn’t wear gloves when applying VX, didn’t dispose of their tainted clothing and didn’t flee the country.
The real culprits, the defense argues, are the four North Korean suspects. The four were captured by airport security cameras discarding their belongings and changing their clothing after the attack.
The North Korean Embassy has also been implicated with an embassy official helping get flights out for the four men and using the name of one of its citizens to buy a car that was used to take the suspects to the airport.
Nevertheless, Pyongyang has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that it was behind the killing. Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
“The prosecution’s evidence is purely circumstantial,” Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said, noting that there was no proof that his client applied VX on Kim. He said his client’s DNA was not found on a shirt recovered by police.
Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said they have given prosecution “a good fight.”
“We are confident that justice will be served on Thursday and (Huong) will be acquitted,” he said.