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.