I’M currently on a reporting trip to Libya, where it’s been swelteringly hot all week. And the week before, and probably the one before that. In fact, like most of the Middle East, its climate is fairly predictable: unremittingly hot and sunny between about April and October, and with a few brief rainy spells in winter.
As such, I couldn’t help feeling slightly sorry for the presenter of the “Middle East weather forecast” that I saw on BBC World in my hotel room this morning. Even with something like 5,000 miles of turf to cover, from Mauritania to Dubai, he had his work cut out filling a whole minute’s worth of airtime, given that it was, well, basically sunny everywhere.
First he ran through the baking temperatures for the day ahead, with Tripoli, Cairo and so on all hitting 30C or more. Then came tomorrow’s forecast – “Baghdad wakes up to 34C”. Finally, there was the general outlook, which was, surprise surprise, more of the same. “So, yes a lot of sunshine all around,” concluded our man, with a half-smile that suggested he knew he was stating the obvious a bit.
Which brings me to my question: is there really any point in these big international weather forecasts that the likes of BBC World, CNN and other “international” channels do?
Quite apart from anything else, they try to cover an absurdly vast chunk of territory. The slightest sweep of the weatherman’s arm usually takes in an area the size of Western Europe, so there isn’t much scope for detailed analysis anyway – say of humidity, for example, which changes a lot in coastal cities like Tripoli, and can turn otherwise manageable day intolerably sweaty.
Or might it just be that English-language broadcasters assume that everyone worldwide is as weather- obsessed as people in Britain, where it changes every day? At the risk of generalising, I don’t really think most people in the Middle East take that close an interest – for the simple reason that they don’t often need to.
I travel in the region a lot, and while life here is not short of unpredictability, one thing I never hear anyone say is “weather permitting”. The first year I spent living in Iraq, for example, I scarcely saw a cloud in the sky between April and October, much less a drop of rain. Or, as the Met Office might have put it, one hell of a “barbecue summer”.
Seldom did I ever have to worry about how to dress before going out, other than occasionally whether to don a flak jacket or not. And seldom do I recall ever wanting to consult Iraq’s answer to Michael Fish. Much less him getting it spectacularly wrong.