I mentioned before that I am from the northeast of Brazil. For 25 years I lived in a city called Recife before moving to Brussels.
As you can see in the map, Recife is a coastal city close to the equator. This means it is always warm. The temperature never goes under 25 degrees and 95% of the year is between 29 and 33 degrees Celsius. There are no seasons such as winter, spring, summer and fall. The seasons are two – hot and rainy. Due to the proximity of the coast, the air is very humid, which makes things worse.
My girlfriend´s sister live in Dubai. We have been there a bunch of times to visit and enjoy some short holidays. Most of the times we try to go in the fall or winter in order to avoid the extreme weather. Last year we ended up going mid-july, the peak of the summer, when temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius.
I don´t know how to describe how hot it feels. When you leave the airport and have the first contact with the outside is like hitting a wall of humidity. It was early morning and theoretically the coldest hour. During the first day we stayed at home and just heard all the stories of how unpleasant it is to walk a couple of blocks while enjoying powerful air conditioners.
The next day I decided it was time to venture ourselves. When I go to Dubai, I am a big fan of the old town where there are markets and a pleasant creek. In order to get to places in Dubai, most of the times, you will not have to face the heat. Get in a cab with air conditioner, stop in the metro stop with air conditioner and take the metro that also has air conditioner.
Upon arriving at our destination it was time to walk and wander around. The first five minutes were interesting – wow! how fun, we are outside and it is 45 degrees. Come on, that is only 15 degrees more from what I was used to in Recife. The sweating was immediate. I could feel all the pores in my body opening and releasing liquids.
After 30 minutes walking the fun was ceasing. If you have dark hair you start to experience a burning sensation. The wetness now has taken over – you start to feel humid in places you never imagined to have pores. You try to keep going on but your brain is shouting to be cooled off.
After 1 hour walking I started to get worried. It gets hard to breathe. The little breeze that was blowing does not make any difference in cooling you down. You start turning liters of water but it makes no difference. Your mouth starts tasting salty and dry. Finally I started seeing some black spots and considering that I might be passing out soon. It was enough… the experiment was over.
We jumped in the first taxi to be seen. I asked to take us to the nearest mall – these could have been my last words on earth! 🙂
It took a good thirty minutes to cool down and go back to function properly.
The experience was eye-opening. Dubai was, and is, built by cheap labour that is imported from the Asian sub-continent. It is known that these people work 10 to 12 hours a day for ridiculously low amounts of money. Their labour conditions are terrible and their breaks limited. I sincerely cannot imagine how the human being can spend the whole day doing hard work forty floors above the ground in such extremes temperatures. This is a testament on how strong is the human body.
It gets worse, when Ramadan comes their routine will continue but now they cannot eat or drink water during the day (even though I read that breaks will be longer and working hours shorter – yeah.). Unfortunately life is like that – there will always be a strong-arm dominating the weaker one.
It also changed my view every time I see a film where someone would get lost in the desert. I had this idea that it would not be such a catastrophic situation but in fact it is worse than that. In a quick reflection, it is easier to survive in extreme cold than extreme warmth (provided you have the proper clothing).
When you grow up in a place where it´s always too warm you grow tired of it. The same way that when you live in Brussels for 7 years, you grow tired of rain and cold. I dream with 33 degree days where I would sweat like a pig running the marathon. Recife is a warm place, but people can survive there without melting. I just need to keep in mind that complaining of being too hot when it is 33 degrees is nothing compared to what you face in the Dubai summer.