Sweihan in Al Ain at 52°C: what life is like in the 'hottest place on Earth’

The city’s long-time residents said last week was perhaps the hottest they have experienced

On Sunday, the temperature at Sweihan in Al Ain reached 51.8°C, the highest on Earth that day.

The city’s long-time residents said last week was perhaps the hottest they have known and it felt like an inferno.

The National was in town on Thursday when the temperature was 44°C.

This reporter and a colleague tried to fry an egg on the bonnet of the car, but the heat was not enough to cook it hard.

Eggs need to reach a temperature of 70°C to cook thoroughly.

A pan was placed in direct sunlight for 30 minutes before the egg was introduced.

I felt like I was inside an oven

Tareef Otham, resident of Sweihan

After cooking for 45 minutes, bubbles came out of the egg.

The weather has not been easy on Sweihan residents, who said stepping outdoors for a few minutes was becoming unbearable.

Walking, biking or driving in the afternoon was extremely difficult.

“It was very hot. I felt like I was inside an oven,” said Tareef Otham, from Syria.

“These days, whenever I drive in the afternoon, the steering wheel burns my hands even though I use the windshield screens when the car is parked.

“I wait for a few minutes for the air conditioning to cool the steering wheel a bit before I start driving.”

The 54-year-old Arabic teacher has been living in Sweihan for 21 years.

“This year it got hotter earlier than usual. And at night it doesn’t get any cooler,” he said.

The heat has forced him to cut down on his daily outdoor exercise routine.

“I’m used to walking for an hour every evening, but since the beginning of June I have cut it down to 30 minutes. I can’t tolerate it,” he said.

Elhadrami Alhashmi, a camel trainer and trader, moved to Sweihan 10 years ago.

“I am originally from Liwa in Al Dhafra,” said the 34-year-old.

He said Sweihan feels hotter than Liwa.

Liwa is about 150 kilometres to the south-west of Abu Dhabi city and is home to the Empty Quarter, the largest desert in the Arabian Peninsula.

“The heat this week has become the talk of the town,” Mr Alhashmi said.

“And just as we always record the hottest temperature here in the summer, we also record the coldest winters. It reached zero and below at times,” he said.

“This year, winter was warmer though, and we didn’t get a drop of rain.”

On Sunday, Mr Alhashmi said he did not leave his house.

But Naseeb, from India, walked for a kilometre at 1.30pm on Sunday.

“At some point, I felt it was difficult to breathe. I tried to walk in shade as much as possible,” he said.

Resident Tareef Otham has cut down on his daily outdoor exercise routine to avoid the heat. Haneen Dajani
Resident Tareef Otham has cut down on his daily outdoor exercise routine to avoid the heat. Haneen Dajani

The 25-year-old salesman at an electronics shop in the town’s co-operative society walks to work each day.

“I was only wearing my cap and sunglasses. It was just too hot,” he said.

He has been living in Sweihan for a year.

“I used to work in Oman. Sweihan is hotter than Oman and my hometown Kerala. I prefer to live in a cold place,” he said.

Muhammad Shafi, 35, a waiter in the co-operative society’s cafeteria, said he uses an umbrella or puts a box on his head when he walks to work and goes home.

He leaves for work at 1.30pm and returns home after 1am.

“I live five minutes away, but even the short walk is unbearable in this weather,” he said.

“There are no trees or shade to walk under. I carry water with me to survive.”

Shakeel KP, owner of Al Dahrooj restaurant in the town’s public market, said he gets just a few customers during daytime.

The 32-year-old Indian has been in Sweihan for 12 years.

“People try to avoid the heat during the day, so most come at night,” he said.

At about 3pm, he had three customers.

“At night, we get 10 to 15 customers,” he said.

“In June and July it always becomes very hot, and this year it feels even hotter,” he said.

Hawa El Hadey, a travel agent who moved from Abu Dhabi city to Sweihan 13 years ago, thinks the heat is not too bad.

“It is open here, and the heat is slightly more bearable than in busy cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ajman,” said the 32-year-old from Sudan.

“Sweihan is very beautiful. It is considered one of the hottest places, but I find it less humid.”

She drives home for lunch at 2pm every day.

“It gets very hot while driving home at that time. The drive is only five minutes, and I reach home before the AC starts cooling the car,” she said.

UAE weather - in pictures

Updated: June 11, 2021 08:17 AM

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