Monday, July 9, 2007

Science, Abayas, and Thobes

Last week we went on one of our whirlwind treks to Dammam with one destination in mind (at least in DD's mind): the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Center for Science and Technology. We took along two of DD's teenage nieces along with our own two girls at left a whiny, teething Buddy at home with his Grandma, our housekeeper, and an aunt all taking turns trying to console our little 8 month-old prince.

I highly recommend anyone with kids in the EP to go to this place. The kids all had a blast and we enjoyed watching them press buttons, turn levers, and pull ropes. There's many hands on, interactive scientific displays as well as a place for younger kids to play and learn. There's also an IMAX theatre showing educational films which was the biggest hit with the two nieces. Although feeling like I was looking over the edge of a cliff down into a volcano then teetering out a helicopter door was kinda cool in my mind...the two teens begged and pleaded to wait and see the next show as well as any others we could fit in before closing time. I then realized...this was the very first time in their lives they'd ever been to a theater!

Movies aside, one display in the exhibits called "Cooling Down With Color" caught my interest. I was trying to sneak this picture without anyone seeing me since many people here throw hissy-fits at the sight of a camera so my apologies for the blurriness (and this is AFTER I cleaned it up in Photoshop). Just above the picture were two plates, one colored white and the other black. The instructions read as follows:
1) Press the button to heat up the colored surfaces
2) Wait 30 seconds
3) Touch both surfaces. Which is hotter?
4) Which one cools faster?

It then goes on to read:
"Dark colors absorb more heat than light colors. This gives light-colored animals the edge in hot environments."

I'm gonna take a stab in the dark and say 1) a man wrote this 2) the man was not Saudi and 3) I'm not the only woman who's stood reading this while wearing a black abaya next to their white thobe-clad husband and had this thought...

"No sh**, Sherlock!"


Lalla Mona said...

LOL u crack me up LOL
but I didnt get it why is he not Saudi?

Cairogal said...

LOL...SSW, it does beg the question of why the beduins originally went w/ this colour scheme.

John Burgess said...

Actually, the exhibit was only touching on one aspect of heat and color.

Several years ago, Scientific American published a research report on how well black v. white clothes dealt with the sun and heat.

They were looking at N. Africa for their studies. In N. Africa, it's the men who wear black (or other dark clothing) while the women wear white.

What they found was that both colors (given the pattern of the traditional clothing) worked equally well, but for different reasons.

The white clothing reflected sunlight, thus reducing the temperature beneath it.

The dark clothing, while absorbing sunlight and converting it to heat, created strong convection currents inside the clothing. This caused cooler air, near the bottom of the garments, to be sucked up into and through them, thus providing a cooling affect.

This is the same effect that's used in 'desert coolers'

The temperatures inside the dark or light garments differed only by a few hundredths of a degree.

Sometimes intuition doesn't quite work as advertised!

Umm Yusuf said...

Thanks for that information John. I too wear different colors. I notice not much difference when I wear black as opposed to a white or lighter color. If it's 100+ outside, i'm gonna be hot no matter.

Red Jenny said...

:) You just gave me a laugh, SSW.

Anonymous said...

LOVE YOUR BLOG!!! I read it often and can relate as my husband is Saudi (its funny because I call my husband a dork quite often too!) and I am American. Your blog is far better than any blog I have come across that is written by a westerner/American woman. You are very observant, diplomatic and clearly try not to pass judgment on cultural differences. I hope to comment more often in the future. I tip my hijab to you!!! Nonnie11

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Lalla Mona- If he were Saudi, he’d probably wear a dark colored “winter” thobe so more than likely understand dark colors=heat retention.

Cairogal- the white understand fine, but the black all goes back to what I deem as a misunderstood hadith that describes the women at the time of the prophet (PBUH) resembling “crows” which has been interpreted by many scholars that it’s because they were wearing black.

John- This would be a report I’d love to read but based on the information that you’ve provided, I believe that a “convection current” effect wouldn’t be applicable in many situations involving abayas. Firstly, seeing as how an air current would need to travel upwards, unless someone were to stand completely upright and still whilst wearing very loose-fitting clothing, the air currents would be impeded by movements in the body such as sitting, bending, or twisting. Also, unlike with thobes, women are fully clothed under our abayas. Ruffles and gathers in our skirts and blouses, tighter fitting abayas as well as clothing like pants or jeans wouldn’t allow air currents to pass in order to cool thus, heat penetrating inwards and retained from the black clothing wouldn’t have any challenging cool air rising from below and reaching our skin. They (the researchers) may have investigated into this already, completely disproving all that I’ve just stated but, having worn both light and dark colors during warm weather in Bahrain, I certainly did perceive a difference between the two even if it were ever so slight in actuality.

Um Yusuf- Your right, if it’s a typical Saudi summer…everyone is suffering!!! When I was pregnant last summer, I was VERY heat sensitive. I HAD to go back home to the States because I simply couldn’t endure the heat here. When the temperature was in the low 80’sF to 90 (30’sC), I was more comfortable in my light colored clothing but as you stated, a simple change in color can’t deflect the assaulting summer heat like in Saudia.

Red Jenny- Thanks as always for your encouragement 

Nonnie11- It’s nice to hear from you and welcome to my blog. Seeing as how you’re married to another Saudi dork (and we say it with affection boys) you may enjoy an upcoming post I’m working on about the “The Universality of Dorkiness: a Cross Cultural Phenomenon”. If you haven’t already done so, I’d recommend you also read American Bedu and DesertFlower, both are married to Saudis and offer fresher perspectives than mine on Saudis.

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

We went to Scitech a few months ago, and it was fantastic! Masha'allah... We have a Scientific Center in Kuwait which is nice (it has a big aquarium, an IMAX and a discovery place for kids), but we've been there many times, and this was all new. The IMAX at Scitech is better, because it's dome-shaped, so the screen is all around you. And there are more of the hands-on exhibits; we spent hours there and only left because they were closing.

I also really appreciated seeing scientific exhibits that mentioned God and quoted relevant ayahs from the Quran.

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

As for the black clothes discussion, well, it's like 115-120F every day, so I doubt that color would make too much difference. And where I get really hot is around the neck and shoulders, because of the hair and hijab, so I think it would be hot no matter what.

But I do think that the traditional abaya is not hot at all. The fabric is thin, and it's not tight anywhere, so it does kind of create a breeze.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Ann- isn't it a cool place!? The kids are still begging to go back and do it often does that happen with educational venues!

You're right about the "traditional" off-the-head abayas..they are breezier. I take it a step further and don't wear a headscarf underneath it when it's really miserable weather out. I wear a "three-piece" nikaab with a really long piece that covers my head all the way to my shoulders in order to stay covered if the abaya falls down off my head..

These days I'm wearing the off-the-shoulder kind and I have the same discomfort that you do from it. I hate the off-the-head abayas when carrying a baby+baby stuff around but I may go back to it soon till things cool a bit.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I went to Scitech in Feb. and I was impressed. We don't have any kids yet, but I would definitely recommend it for parents.

FYI, the IMAX will show documentaries in english if there are 10 or more people requesting it in english.


Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Nonnie11- thanks for the info, I'm sure some of my readers could benefit from it.
Anyone that goes with us to the IMAX is an Arabic speaker, including myself, so I'd never be able to see it in English unless a busload of ex-pats came for the same showing. We also found out that if there aren't at least 7 tickets sold they won't even show a film. We had the audacity to go to a noon showing and since we only totaled 6, they wouldn't show a film:(

Anonymous said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

See, this is something else I like about Saudi - that the norm is to have the IMAX films in Arabic. Ours are normally in English, with some scheduled occasionally in Arabic (and then you can take headphones and hear it in English). Now for me personally, English is better - but it's an ARABIC country, so why should it be like that?

Ann said...

Oops - that was me. I forgot to sign in.