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World

Egyptians Break Fast, Beat Heat At The Same Time

Originally published on Sat July 28, 2012 6:52 am

On a sweltering day in July, Cairo temperatures top 100 degrees and the humidity is an oppressive 83 percent. There hasn't been a single day this month with a high of less than 90 — in a country where access to air conditioning is much more limited than in the United States.

Add to that the fact that much of the country is fasting for Ramadan and it gives a new dimension to what the Egyptian Meteorological Association calls a "humid heat wave."

At Paradise Juices in a suburb called 6th of October City, Mohamed Godb, 25, helps residents cool down with fresh juices like mango, strawberry and coconut.

During the hottest weather, Godb usually recommends aseer asab, or sugarcane juice.

Godb's colleague scrapes the cane stalks smooth then chops them to about the length of a yardstick. Godb then feeds them into a refrigerator-sized machine that spits out a thin stream of greenish-yellow juice.

Godb has few customers during the day in Ramadan, when Egyptian Muslims are fasting, but after dusk, business is better than brisk.

"The most preferred juices in Ramadan are the date juice, coconut juice and licorice," Godb says. "We even sell more, twice as much, in Ramadan. That's our best season."

In another Cairo suburb, 58-year-old baker Mahmoud Ali is dripping with sweat.

With a huge oven dominating his bakery, he says the temperature inside his shop is many degrees higher than outside.

"See what happens with every step you take inside," Ali says. "It is hell in there."

He says God gives him the power to fast through the heat, and he has some advice for Americans wilting in their own heat wave.

"Have patience. I think they should come and see what we have here and then they would know," Ali says.

He chuckles as he turns back to his roaring oven.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

People in parts of the Middle East that have been suffering through a hotter than usual summer, now imagine that in a region where temperatures usually hover around 100 degrees this time around, plus it is the month of Ramadan. Muslims are fasting in the scorching weather and going without food and water between dawn and dusk.

Kimberly Adams found out how people are managing the heat in Cairo.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAFFIC)

KIMBERLY ADAMS, BYLINE: On a sweltering day in July, temperatures are topping a hundred degrees and the humidity is an oppressive 83 percent. There hasn't been a single day in Cairo this month with a high cooler than 90 degrees. And in most neighborhoods in this tightly packed and polluted city, the real temperature is over a hundred with the humidity making it feel like it's up to a 115 or more.

Add to that the fact much of the country is fasting for Ramadan, and it gives a new dimension to what the Egyptian Meteorological Association calls a humid heat wave.

MOHAMED GODB: (Foreign language spoken)

ADAMS: Mango, strawberry, coconut; 25 year-old Mohamed Godb lists the types of fresh juices he sells at Paradise Juices to help residents cool down in a suburb called 6th of October City. During the hottest weather, Godb usually recommends Asir Asab, or sugarcane juice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCRAPING)

ADAMS: Godb's colleague scrapes the cane stalks smooth, then chops them to about the length of a yardstick. Godb then feeds them into a refrigerator-size machine that spits out a thin stream of greenish-yellow juice.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)

ADAMS: Godb has few customers during the day in Ramadan, when Egyptian Muslims are fasting, but after dusk, business is better than brisk.

GODB: (Through Translator) The most preferred juices in Ramadan are the date juice, coconut juice and licorice. We even sell more, twice as much, in Ramadan. That's our best season.

ADAMS: This year, Ramadan is occurring during a particularly hot and humid season. The high temperatures make the humidity even worse, and access to air conditioning is much more limited here than in the United States.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)

ADAMS: In another Cairo suburb, 58-year-old baker Mahmoud Ali is dripping with sweat. With a huge oven dominating his bakery, he says the temperature inside his shop is many degrees higher than outside.

MAHMOUD ALI: (Through Translator) See what happens with every step you take inside. It is hell in there.

ADAMS: He says God gives him the power to fast through the heat. And he has some advice for Americans, wilting in their own heat wave.

ALI: (Through Translator) Have patience. I think they should come and see what we have here and then they would know.

ADAMS: He chuckles as he turns back to his roaring oven.

For NPR News, I'm Kimberly Adams in Cairo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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