How did people survive in the Middle East before air-conditioning? The answer is quite surprising and includes the use of tents, animal hair, limestone, mud, narrow alleyways, shading and non-mechanised air circulation.

November 10, 2020

Surviving the Summer

Summer temperatures in Qatar are hot, especially in Doha city. However, it is not the type of 'hot' that most of us relate to. The majority of us will bask in temperatures around the 30˚C (86˚F) mark. However, once temperatures start to rise above 35˚C (95˚F), especially if accompanied by high humidity, most people tend to begin to feel particularly uncomfortable and sweaty. The Summer temperatures in Qatar can reach a searing 50˚C (122˚F) during a heatwave and swing between average temperatures of 35˚C (95˚F) and 42˚C (107.6˚F) under normal conditions. Humidity, even at relatively low levels, can feel especially muggy when the air is this hot. So, it is safe to say that the majority of people, living in Qatar or visiting Doha in the Summer months, will feel themselves overheating at some point.
The reason being, our bodies are designed to function at an optimum core temperature of between 36˚C (96.8˚F) and 37˚C (98.6˚F). The nearer outside temperatures get to our optimum temperature, the harder it gets for the body to cool down. Our bodies are always generating heat, which needs to be dissipated into the air around us. If the air around us is just as hot or hotter than our optimum core temperature, then dissipation of our internal heat is not so effective, and we begin to feel especially hot and uncomfortable. If humidity is also high the moisture on our bodies, which retains heat, will take longer to evaporate into the air around us; thus, increasing the levels of discomfort we feel.
Prolonged periods of extreme heat and high humidity can be very dangerous for our health. Our bodies have to work extremely hard to maintain normal internal temperatures. Though the heat can affect anyone, the young, the elderly, the sick and the overweight are especially at risk, as are those who work outside or perform as athletes. Even pets are at risk during extreme weather conditions. Nevertheless, Summer in Qatar is quite manageable. By following some basic steps, you can avoid the biggest dangers - heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Image: Jakub Zajic/

Staying Safe in Extreme Heat

Extreme heat is a danger to health, but there are numerous things you can do to decrease the risk and enjoy life during the hottest months of the year.

In preparation for the hotter weather:

  • Check the weather forecast. Forewarned is forearmed. If there is a heat wave on the horizon, you can ensure that you make the appropriate preparations.
  • Ensure your air-conditioners are in good working order and well fitted if they are wall mounted. If there are gaps around the unit, the hot air can find its way indoors helping to increase internal temperatures.
  • Ensure the air-conditioning in your car has been charged and is in good working order.
  • Plan activities that take the heat into consideration. Indoor activities, or those planned for early mornings or late evenings when the temperatures are lower, are a good idea.

During the hotter weather:

  • Stay indoors in a cool environment where possible, especially during the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm).
  • Keep the environment around you cool by switching on the air-conditioning, closing blinds and curtains to keep the sun’s rays out, and avoid heat-generating activities such as cooking hot meals.
  • Stay hydrated. It may seem like an obvious statement, but most of us don’t drink as much water as we should during average temperatures. It is recommended, during extremely hot periods, that you drink up to 4 cups of water per hour and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Drinking plenty of water is recommended whether you are indoors or outside, the body loses moisture either way. It is also worth noting that alcohol can cause dehydration, because of its diuretic effect, and it interferes with your body’s ability to regulate its own temperature.
  • Eat light meals regularly rather than large heavy meals. Large meals require more energy to digest, which will cause an increase in your overall body temperature.
  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Heavy or tight-fitting clothes will hold moisture to your skin making you feel uncomfortable. Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen will keep you cooler and more comfortable than synthetic fabrics such as polyester.
  • Take cool showers or splash yourself with cool water; it helps to lower your body temperature.
  • Exercise in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures decrease, and the sun’s rays are less intrusive. Exercising in hot weather puts extra strain and stress on the body as it tries to maintain its optimum core temperature.

Image: Mahesan Chandrasekaran/

Going outside during the hotter weather:

  • If you are heading outdoors, then try to ensure it is in the early morning or the late evening, especially if you are planning strenuous activities.
  • Wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF when heading outside. SPF 30 blocks around 97% of UVB rays, overexposure to which can cause skin cancer. Reapply at least every two hours.
  • As well as sunscreen, it is important to wear a hat and UV blocking sunglasses. Wide-brimmed hats or ones with a neck protector offer the most protection. You could even use an umbrella to keep the sun’s rays at bay.
  • Wear lightweight, wicking clothes that wick away perspiration. Try to avoid dark clothes where possible, as these absorb heat.
  • Park your car in a shaded area if possible and use reflective shades to keep an amount of the sun’s heat out. Do not leave children or pets in the car, even for brief periods of time. Temperatures on the inside of a car can rise very rapidly and can quickly overcome and even kill the occupant.
  • Drink plenty of water. Taking in plenty of liquid when outside is extremely important in avoiding heat-related illnesses.
  • If you are working outside, take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. If you work with others, ensure each of you look out for signs of heat-related illnesses in each other.

Image: Sven Hansche/

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses is a great way to ensure that if the worst does happen, you know what to do. The most serious heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body overheats, due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures, and becomes dehydrated. Without being recognized or treated, heat exhaustion can lead to a more serious condition, heatstroke.

Heat Exhaustion – What are the Signs and How to Treat It

The most common signs of heat exhaustion to look out for are:

  • Excessive sweating and cool clammy skin with goose-bumps
  • Fatigue (children may become floppy and sleepy)
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness, dizziness and confusion
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Problems with physical coordination
  • Muscle cramps in the legs, arms and stomach
  • Rapid pulse or fast breathing
  • A temperature of 38˚C (100.4˚F) and above
  • Thirst

If heat exhaustion is treated quickly, within 30 minutes, it should have no lasting effects. To treat heat exhaustion, you need to cool the sufferer down. Take the person to a cool, shaded place, preferably indoors with air-conditioning. Ensure that clothing is loose and encourage them to sit or lie down and rest. Give them plenty of water (sports and rehydration drinks will work too) and cool their skin with a fan or towel soaked in cold water.
If there is no improvement in the person’s condition after 30 minutes, you may need to contact emergency services.

Heat Stroke – What are the Signs and How to Treat It

The most common signs of heat stroke to look out for are:

  • Symptoms that have persisted for over 40 minutes
  • Skin feels hot and dry, but not sweaty
  • A temperature of 40˚C (104˚F) and above
  • Rapid or shallow breathing
  • Confusion, irrational behaviour or irritability
  • Seizures/fits
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness

If heat stroke is suspected, call the emergency services. While waiting for help, try to cool the sufferer down. Take the person to a cool, shaded place, preferably indoors with air-conditioning. Ensure that clothing is loose and remove unnecessary clothing. Help them to sit or lie down and rest. Give them plenty of water (if they are not vomiting) and cool their skin with a fan or towels soaked in cold water. Cold packs can be applied to the groin, armpits, back and neck. Put the person in the recovery position if they lose consciousness.

Summer Activities to Beat the Heat

Summer in Qatar need not be a drag, especially if you take the right precautions and know where to go to keep cool.
Heading out of Doha city will make you feel less hot and bothered. Built-up areas trap heat and can raise overall temperatures by several degrees. Qatar has some lovely public beaches; a number are in close proximity to the city. Some beaches offer shaded areas and other facilities. It is worth checking before you go, or packing your own parasol, water, snacks, etc.
Splashing about in the water will definitely cool you down. Many waterfront hotels in Doha have their own private beach and climate controlled swimming pool. These facilities offer sunbeds, umbrellas, towels, poolside refreshments and bathroom facilities - which might be a cooler alternative to a public beach.
There is also an Aqua Park just outside of Doha's city limits. The aqua park is an excellent activity for keeping cool and perfect for thrill seekers.
If you prefer the comfort of air-conditioning, then heading to any of Doha's Malls would be an ideal option. Malls provide so many indoor activities. You could easily spend an entire day in a Mall and still not see and do everything on offer.
Museums are also great places to enjoy some time out of the sun. Qatar has some fantastic Museums in and around Doha city. There are Museums covering modern art, Islamic art, the history and heritage of Qatar, natural history, and even postage stamps. Most Museums also house cafes and restaurants to while away an hour or two in.
Another way to ensure that you keep cool is to become a night owl. Qatar comes alive at night during the Summer months. After dark parks fill up with families picnicking, kids playing and people relaxing and socialising outdoors. Night markets, souqs, cafes and restaurants buzz with people until around midnight. To enjoy the cooler evening temperatures, it is worthwhile having a siesta in the afternoon.
For more information on Summer activities in Qatar, discover our
Explore Qatar pages.

For the daily weather forecast, monthly outlooks, weather warnings and more, in Doha and across Qatar, check out the following websites:

Main image: No8/

Published: January 08, 2020
Last updated: November 10, 2020
Related Articles
Unusual Weather

Locally known as Al Sarayat, Shamal Winds, and Wasmi, the unusual weather conditions in Qatar include heavy rains, strong winds, dust storms or thunderstorms.

Winter in Qatar

In Qatar, unlike many countries, winter is the time when the country comes alive, and people head outdoors. The temperature and humidity drop, the weather is cool and refreshing.

Weather in Qatar

While classed as a dry, subtropical desert climate with hot summers and low rainfall, the weather in Qatar has a lot more variation than you might think.

On the Coast

Qatar has a vast coastline packed with beaches, 5-star hotels and resorts, islands, mangrove forests, wildlife and a host of other attractions.


How did people survive in the Middle East before air-conditioning? The answer is quite surprising and includes the use of tents, animal hair, limestone, mud, narrow alleyways, shading and non-mechanised air circulation.