Intense heat is experienced in two flavors, that is, humid and dry. Dealing with this condition was not only about the human but also the entire ecosystem.
Homes were built in a way that it was easier to be in them while it was very hot. The windows were fixed in a way that they would catch the breeze, and their ceilings were taller than in the modern buildings. People would throw water on the terrace of the roof in the evening when the sun goes down. It evaporated at a higher rate making the rooms bearable. They would then sleep on the roof terrace on mats. Shutters were put outside the houses to avoid direct sun. This is still seen in the warm region of the Mediterranean Sea.
Curtains made of verbena twigs were used, and people wetted them so that they would serve some coolness as they dried slowly in the hot, dry summer breeze. They were really massive, and they covered one entire side of the veranda of the house. Electricity was not essential because they wetted the curtains by watering them using mugs. A small water pump was used as a mechanism to speed up the wetting. Since people were not aware of the air conditioning, they would not sit in their houses but stroll in their neighborhood for chats before going to sleep, especially in the evening. Fans tied with large ropes were used. They rocked them in a motion to cool down the house. This worked just like church bells.
Traditionally, people ate seasonally; some of the foods were avoided during the summer. They would drink a lot of fluids when hot. Mostly, they would consume water as alcohol was not as culturally prevalent. They invented interesting drinks like the lassi found in India. Some foods could not be stored for long as they would spoil due to the heat; a good example is fresh milk. There were those fruits that were considered when hot like the melon. People ate watery vegetables during summer; this included the cucumber.
When hot, people wore loose fitting clothes made of cotton and linen.This would keep them cool and absorb their sweat. Dark clothes were avoided as they would absorb more heat, and rather, chose light clothes. The color was carefully considered as well because black clothes absorb heat more than white, making white clothes more preferred. People never wore heavy clothes during summer as they would really sweat. If that happened, they would use their modified fan, which was rocked by the family members or the workers.
At Torocco’s Cooling & Heating, we don’t really want to go back to the days without AC, but it wasn’t that long ago that we found ways to cope with high temperatures.