Iraqis have a mandatory day off as temperatures soar above 50 degrees Celsius (123 F), part of a heat wave enveloping much of the already scorching Middle East.

Gulf residents cranked up their air conditioners and elsewhere in the Middle East those who could headed to the beach to escape Thursday's soaring temperatures, high even by the standards of the region.

The Iraqi government announced the four-day holiday Wednesday as a precaution, urging people to limit outdoor activities and drink plenty of water.

Chronic electricity and water cuts in Iraq and other conflict-ridden countries make heat waves even more unbearable — particularly for the 3.1 million people displaced by violence.