I’ve been trying to ignore the fact that we’re in the 4th day of a pretty brutal Jerusalem heatwave. I figured if I didn’t pay any attention to the actual temperature outside, maybe it would go away and I wouldn’t actually feel like I was stepping into a sauna every time I left my apartment.
But it’s hard to ignore temperatures of 97F with humidity of only around 20 percent–especially when the wind from the direction of the desert picks up and the dust and sand seeps in everywhere.
Here in the Middle East this phenomena is known as a hamsin (Arabic for 50–as in ‘you can expect 50 days of this every year’) and generally does occur in the springtime. This year, we’ve had quite a few episodes already, and in Israel we call it a sharav. The east winds were even mentioned in the Bible where they were known as ruach kadim.
Back in the more serene days when people adapted themselves more to their climatic conditions than we do today–the locals would close all their windows and retreat for the duration into their thick-walled homes to wait out the miserable heat. If you find yourself touring Jerusalem during a sharav don’t even think of trying to keep to your original plans of a walking tour of the Old City or a stroll through Ein Kerem, let alone a hike through the City of David archaeological site.
Instead, in the absence of any public body of water anywhere close to Jerusalem, you may want to consider a day pass (between $15-25 per person) to the pool of one of the larger hotels (the Inbal Hotel and King David Hotel would be good choices). Both boast gracious outdoor semi-Olympic pools set in lovely gardens with a bar where you can order a long, cool drink. The spa at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel is the place to go if you’re with kids–they’ll sell you a family day pass and you can laze on the lawn and cool off in the pool while they make use of the playground and the kiddie pool.
A sharav day is not a bad day to choose to spend in one of the capital’s museums, either. You could take in the Angels and Demons exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum, or check out the offerings at the smaller Museum of Islamic Art in the Kiryat Shmuel neighborhood not far from the Jerusalem Theater.
Don’t forget to enjoy the cooler winds when they blow in and chase out all that nasty heat and dust…