Weather: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates

With the world's largest expanse of sand at its heart, Saudi Arabia lives up to its reputation for dust and heat – at least between May and October – although the summer mode may arrive and depart a little ahead or behind schedule. The Arabian peninsula slopes eastward from a substantial rise near the west coast. West of that ridge, destinations near the Red Sea, such as Mecca and Jiddah, experience sultry summer humidity to accompany the heat. A few thunderstorms bring relief in the far southwest, next to Yemen. Along the Persian Gulf coast – which includes the nations of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates and the southeast delta of Iraq – the extremely muggy summers (fed by moisture evaporating from the warmest sea on Earth) are accompanied by the shamal. This steady northwest wind is funnelled down the Gulf between the Azores high and Asian monsoonal low. It's a nearly constant breeze in June and July, although it blows more fiercely in brief, dusty spells toward the beginning and end of the hot season. The great Empty Quarter, hot as it is, escapes the shamal and the humidity, which makes the summer air slightly more bearable. Once the winter regime sets in, weak lows scoot across north Arabia every few days. They can bring strong winds and a round of thunder, especially toward spring. Across the Persian Gulf, a passing front may bring a brief winter-style shamal. Winter temperatures and humidities along the Persian Gulf are roughly similar to those in Los Angeles or San Diego, but with fewer rainy spells. The desert tends to be a bit warmer and even drier than the Persian Gulf coast, although nights after cool fronts can dip close to freezing. Iraq's desert is a few degrees cooler than the peninsula in winter but just as scorching in summer. The Red Sea coast stays warm and humid through the year.