07/31/2015 08:11 EDT | Updated 07/31/2016 05:59 EDT

Iranian city feels like 73 C as heat wave smothers Middle East

While the dog days of summer have triggered heat alerts in many Canadian cities, the weather woes are much worse half way across the world.

In the Iranian city Bandar Mahshahr, the mercury soared to 46 C on Friday as an unprecedented heat wave enveloped much of the Middle East. With humidity, however, the air felt more like 73 C, according to AccuWeather.

A port city located in Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran, Bandar Mahshahr has its proximity to the Persian Gulf to blame for the incredible temperature readings, AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani said.

"Around the Persian Gulf, where water temperatures are in the lower to middle 90s [30s C], the extreme heat combines with incredibly high humidity to produce astounding apparent temperatures," he said.

A strong ridge of high pressure has hovered over the Middle East through much of July, resulting in the heat wave, Sagliani said.

Iraq sizzles

To the west, temperatures also reached above 50 C this week in Iraq, with a reading of 52 C in Baghdad on Thursday.

The relentless heat prompted the Iraqi government to implement a mandatory four-day holiday starting on Thursday. Residents were also urged to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of water.

Unlike other countries in the region, Iraq lacks beaches, and travel restrictions make it difficult for people to escape the sweltering heat, leaving many — even those fortunate enough to live in their homes — with limited options for cooling off. Some swim in rivers and irrigation canals, while others spend the days in air-conditioned shopping malls.

Chronic electricity and water cuts in Iraq and other conflict-ridden countries make heat waves even more unbearable — particularly for the more than 14 million people displaced by violence across the region. In the southern Iraqi city of Basra earlier this month, protesters clashed with police as they demonstrated for better power services, leaving one person dead. 

Social media users saw some relief when comparing the weather in their hometown to the scorching heat in Iraq.