I don't know what people do in places like South East Asia
or the Southern USA, where the summers are hot, muggy and humid - in fact I don't know how civilisation ever survived in such climate
s, they are so trying on the organism... Where I come from
, anyway, we have very hot but also extremely arid
summers, with dry dusty winds that blow a sandy pall over everything and give everyone sinus
problems. There are all sorts of ways to combat these effects without recourse to modern technology, most of them in use around the Middle East
and North Africa
since the time of the Ancient Egyptians
We do use many of the methods described above - watermelon, grapes and other juicy fruit are a staple of the summer diet, most socialising is done after dark and out of doors, tea (with cooling mint or sage) is ubiquitous, etc. Below, however, are a few things that, if not unique to Israel, are at least characteristic of the region:
- In the words of a particularly memorable instructor on an archaeology dig, "if you don't drink you basically dehydrate, and if you dehydrate you basically die." Pretty much all non-alcoholic drinks have been invented in hot climates: tea in China, Sherbet in Arabia, Cola in the American South, coffee in Mexico, and in Israel, chocolate milk. In a bag. You just bite off one corner and suckle to your heart's content - very therapeutic, and of course extremely Freudian. We also lead the world in varieties of iced coffee and all kinds of slushies and milkshakes of course, and we do drink lots and lots of water and soda, but cold cocoa is special to us, and is the staple breakfast (combining liquids with calories as it does) of many an Israeli schoolchild.
- Israelis go to the beach a lot (there's a lot of beach - one whole side of the country is sea-facing). A lot has been said, and indeed many songs have been written, about Brazilian and Californian beach culture. Well, Israeli beach culture is inferior to that only in scale. And has a few more armed security guards, which can be off-putting, but who cares. Us landlocked Jerusalem nerds used to go to the pool though, and there was hardly a household when I was growing up that didn't have a season ticket to one of the many and excellent public pools around the city and environs. It was practically a weekly ritual, and even more common in the summer holidays. And we also had many, many water fights - we even have Yom Hamayim, or Water Day, a uniquely Israeli holiday that coincides with the first few really hot days of the year and on which it is absolutely compulsory to drench everyone you meet and get drenched in return (anyone who remembers their childhood will be able to instantly conjure up the vision of intra-gang campaigns of ruthless warfare that this gave rise to in the "Our Neighbourhood" community of kids).
- Traditional Muslim architecture is extremely well equipped to deal with the heat, and many of its hallmarks have been passed down the chain of occupation to us. Apartment blocks tend to be built in groups, creating a central public space that is sheltered from the maddening hamsin, the desert wind, and is kept shady for most of the day by the overhanging walls on all sides - bit like a scaled up patio. The shade from stone walls, being solid and slow moving, is also much cooler than the shade given by trees or umbrellas.
- Most Israeli houses are built as standard to include a type of rolling shutter in the windows. It is pulled up and let down with a sash arrangement, and when let down loosely is perforated in such a way that about 40% of the surface of the shutter let the air through. Opening all the windows and pulling down all the shutters is a wonderful way of keeping a house cool by letting in the breeze but not the sun. On airless and dusty days, the thing to do is drench a few bed sheets in water and hang them over the shuttered windows. The evaporating moisture cools the air within, and is surprisingly effective in lowering the overall temperature.
- When all else fails completely, get some ice cubes out of the freezer and lie on the floor. The overwhelming majority of floors are stone or tile precisely out of deference to the climate. They stay cool for most of the summer and feel wonderful on overheated feet and backs. Lie back, place an ice cube on each chakra, and you're guaranteed to be blue-lipped with cold in no time.