Wednesday, January 2, 2008
There's No Cold Like Desert Cold
This is my first winter in the Middle East. I've been to the southern California desert before in January and walked away from that with the theory that there is no cold as bitter as "desert cold". I remember shivering uncontrollably in the pre-dawn darkness, facing eastward, almost willing the sun to come up, praying for relief from a biting cold.
Iraq is milder. It's cold, but not unbearable; Iraqis would tell you differently though. They're bundled up with ski parkas and hats pulled down over their ears, all the while still plodding around in open-toed sandals. They don't do cold well at all. I grew up in New England, and my Scottish compatriot and I are reveling in the respite of the jet engine-like heat that dominates here most of the year.
What astounds me is that even with the Iraqis' great sensitivity to cold not a single villa has accommodations for heat. Even the most modest home will have air conditioning, and thank Buddha for that, but the most lavish palace is void of a heating system. Instead the Iraqis rely on the mobile electric heaters, plugging one into every electrical outlet available. This practice causes havoc on the 1950s-ish home electrical wiring. It's almost a game with the locals to see how many power strips they can daisy-chain together to fire up more heaters. Everywhere you look are scorched power strips, laying next to their fresh replacement plugged into the matrix. Needless to say, we have a fire extinguisher in every room in the villa and January has become "Fire Prevention Month" here.