Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jeddah: Let's Talk About the Weather...

Originally posted 8/4/06

When I've told people about how hot it was in Jeddah, the first thing that they usually say is that at least it was dry heat because it was the desert, but this wasn't true at all. Jeddah is on the Red Sea and therefore very humid, sometimes even 80-90%, so couple the high humidity with 125 degree temperatures and you may just be able to imagine how hot it really felt.

The adaptability of the human body is simply astounding, though, and by the end of the first week there, I was spending most of the day at the pool despite a temperature spike that week to over 130 degrees. So, how was the heat not oppressive? There was a constant desert wind blowing that helped to keep you cooler. Not a breeze. A wind. And that made all the difference.

Factoring in physical adaptation, our house was air-conditioned to a chilly 80 degrees and if it were any colder than that we might have had to put on sweaters. So, the relative temperature felt no different from a typical hot August day at home. One man's 125 is another man's 95, right? But we can also talk about absolutes. In absolute temperatures, it really was hot; the heat was enough to make the pool water the same as a warm bath by the end of the day and the shallow water at the beach could become even uncomfortably hot. And, at its worst, losing your air-conditioning in the summer could make your food spoilage quick and catastrophic. Returning home from a vacation one summer, we found that a breaker had tripped, knocking out our AC and rendering the refrigerator totally beyond any hope of repair because it was dripping with blood from the festering, spoiled meat in the freezer. So, yes, in absolutes, it was hot. Of course, these are the summer temperatures. In the winter, it was in the chilly 70's and the pool area was deserted.

Jeddah's in a desert, getting rain maybe only twice a year on average when we lived there, usually in the winter, sometimes heavily, but never for very long. To give you an idea about what the weather was generally like, I can give you a rundown of the weekly weather pattern during the summer:

Monday: Sunny, hot, humid, windy.
Tuesday: Sunny, hot , humid, windy.
Wednesday: Sunny, hot, humid, windy.
Thursday: Sunny, hot, humid, windy.

Repeat this for every day all summer and, well, you get the picture. When you first get there, you look out the window to check the weather when you get up in the morning, but it's always the same, so after a while you just stop looking. You would think that it would be ideal to have a summer of perfect days (and thinking back on it, it was kinda nice), but you would be surprised at what you miss. Try to explain that to the people you see when you first come back to the States after spending the summer in the desert... try to get them to understand why you are running barefoot on the grass, laughing in the pouring rain.

And because it's 75 degrees out, you have on a sweater.


  1. I am in deep admiration of anyone who could adapt to that heat. I don't think my body can adapt.

    This rundown of your move to Jeddah is sooo interesting. I'm loving this series.

  2. Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year.