The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Iraq is boiling in unprecedented heat. Here’s how locals are trying to cope.

BAGHDAD — I spent several days reporting on a record heatwave in Iraq. Baghdad, the capital, has boiled in temperatures at 109 degrees or higher almost every day since June 19. The mercury in the southern city of Basra reached an incredible 129 degrees on July 22.

It’s not just Iraq, either. Countries across the Middle East and North Africa have sizzled this summer in extreme weather that has sounded alarms among climate experts. Global warming, they say, has already taken a harsh toll on these areas, and it will only get worse.

So I decided to use Instagram to document what life in such blistering heat is like for people in Baghdad. Below are some pictures of what I witnessed:

Abdel-Amir Hamoud owns a massive nursery in Baghdad where he sells everything from palm trees to roses. This summer has been so hot, he said, that more than $150,000 of his plants have dried out and died. Climate experts predict that warmer temperatures will have a devastating impact on farming in the region.

Jassam Farhan, 69, lives with his family in a camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Baghdad. Earlier this month, he passed out from the extreme heat and had to be taken to the hospital. His son contracted typhoid from the camp’s communal — and dirty — water source late last month. And every 20 minutes or so, just to keep cool, his grandchildren bathe in a metal pan filled with that same dirty water. There’s no air conditioning because of constant power cuts. Tens of thousands of other Iraqis are displaced and must also brave the elements.

This is a picture of the communal water source at the camp where the Farhan family resides. When I took this picture, the temperature had soared beyond 110 degrees.

Friday is the start of the weekend in Iraq, but this picture taken on a recent Friday shows just how unusually empty Baghdad’s streets have become because of the heat. If you step outside in temperatures that reach 120 degrees and higher — as many Iraqis have been forced to do this summer — it can literally feel like your face is burning.

Power cuts that last 12 hours or longer in Iraq mean that homes can become uncomfortably warm during this particularly hot summer. And for kids, that’s just awful, especially since there is already a lack of air-conditioned recreational facilities here. So many boys improvise by cooling off in the Tigris River, where they fish and play games. Here’s a video of them swimming across this large body of water, which wends its way through Baghdad.

One of the many kids taking a dip in the Tigris River on a recent Friday.