An Iraqi man cools off in Baghdad
An Iraqi man cools off in Baghdad. In the Sinak neighbourhood of central Baghdad, street showers have been erected on the pavement every 200 metres. © Ahmad al-Rubaye - AFP
An Iraqi man cools off in Baghdad
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Guillaume Decamme, AFP
Last updated: July 26, 2012

Streetside showers in boiling Baghdad summer

Hunched over, Yaqub mutters softly, "It's Ramadan, and I am fasting," as if to justify his actions, before he steps underneath an outdoor shower in central Baghdad to cool off in the boiling heat.

"It's hard," the delivery man admits, referring to the temperatures across Iraq which have topped 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in recent days, spurring authorities to declare Thursday a holiday for all government workers.

"This feels good," Yaqub, 53, says after a refreshing splash of water.

Amid the brutal summer, enterprising Iraqis have set up make-shift outdoor showers, hooking up mains water supplies in shops and markets to hoses, and attaching showerheads so that passersby can find some respite from the sun.

In the Sinak neighbourhood of central Baghdad, these "dushes" have been erected on the pavement every 200 metres (yards).

"We installed a 'dush' just in front of our store, with my friend," said Ammar Yunus, who runs a vehicle maintenance shop that sells oils, lubricants and other items. "We thought it would allow people passing by to cool off a bit."

Iraqis are used to summers where the mercury tops 50 degrees Celsius at various points from June to September, with Thursday's temperature in Baghdad reaching 52 degrees Celsius.

That heat is enough to discourage clients from shopping, Yunus said.

As in recent years, the peak summer has come during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are to fast from dawn until dusk.

To make matters worse, the country's already meagre national grid electricity supply falls even further as Iraqis power up their air conditioners to full capacity, forcing them to rely even more on communal and private generators to make up the gap.

And so, Wednesday evening, the government announced that Thursday would be a day off for the country's bureaucracy.

The security forces are unaffected, in a country where, though attacks are markedly fewer than in the worst of the sectarian war from 2006 to 2008, violence is still high by international standards.

On Monday, a wave of attacks killed 113 people across the country, the deadliest day in Iraq since December 2009.

At a military checkpoint in Jumhuriyah street, also in the centre of the capital, an army sergeant who only gave his name as Abbas said he was less worried by the threat of violence than by the heat and noise that accompanies a Baghdad summer.

"It's hot, of course," he said, with the top of his uniform unbuttoned.

"But we must be patient. It is Ramadan, so we must wait until the evening to eat. We are well-trained, we know we are serving our country."

Nearby, as if to taunt him, a group of children let the water from a streetside "dush" flow over them.

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