Somehow we missed an early celebration this month of Independence Day. In most places here in the United States, this happens on the Fourth of July, to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
But the U.S. embassy in Riyadh celebrates the Fourth — which it calls “National Day” — in March. This year the big bash was March 11, according to our copy of the Saudi Gazette. (Slipped by some folks at the State Department as well.)
A fine crowd of dignitaries watched Ambassador James Smith and Saudi officials cut a large cake in the shape of the U.S. flag. “We are celebrating the 237th anniversary of American independence,” he said, and the “80th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” (Full relations weren’t established until 1940, according to State’s historian, but let’s not quibble.)
So what’s the reason for this odd celebration?
Well, Riyadh is said to be the hottest capital in the world, with daytime temps in July averaging a fine 110 degrees and the record high close to 120 degrees.
In March, the highs average a much more comfortable 81.7 and the lows only 59 — and “National Day”appears to be traditionally celebrated at night.
But wait a minute. The Mall gets brutal hot in July, and patriotic Americans celebrate in high temperatures — average high just under 90 degrees, record around 105 — and sweltering humidity to boot.
In contrast, Riyadh has virtually no rainfall in the summer, so it’s got what folks in Denver and Phoenix like to boast is a dry heat. (Very dry, so when you put your hands on the steering wheel it feels like the top of your electric cooktop.) Suffocating dust storms are common in Riyadh in summer, and they can be quite annoying.
Still, the embassy could be on to something. Maybe we could celebrate the Fourth in early October, when the temps are much better, or in early May or June?
But the beer wouldn’t be nearly as refreshing.