Khamsin or, An Ill Wind


We’re in the midst of the khamsin! I expect that doesn’t resonate with most of my Gentle Readers, so let me explain. Khamsin or خمسين‎ is the Arabic word for fifty. Every April that the Good Lord sends, the wind begins to blow. And, lest you deceive your Gentle Selves, let me quickly assure you that this isn’t a placid, benignly cooling breeze that lures you into the back yard for a read or a bit of a siesta on the hammock as you sip on a nice frosty glass of sweet tea. No, thank you very much; these winds are carrying tons of dust from the deserts of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. And wait, you haven’t heard it all. These winds blow for fifty days! No need to go back and re-read that; you read it correctly the first time. I said fifty, dusty, dirty, gritty days! So, we don’t call the wind Moriah over here, we call it Khamsin. I’m fairly certain that the entire surface of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has blown into and been swept out of our flat over the past three years!

Over in Morocco and the western regions of Africa, they call it sirocco or simoom. The khamsin are caused by depressions over the Mediterranean or North African coast or some damned thing or other that’s only of interest to meteorologists. The wind speeds are upwards of 140 kilometers per hour (85 mph) or so and occasionally cause the temperatures to rise as much as 20°C (68°F)!

Napoleon and his troops, during the Egyptian Campaign and the Allied troops of the North African Campaign during the Second World War were stopped in their tracks by the blinding, dust-filled winds. The electrical disturbances caused by the flying grains of sand even rendered their compasses useless.

What do we, in the 21st century do during the dust storms? We try not to venture out any more than is absolutely necessary. We close the windows and shutters in a vain attempt to keep the dust out and wait for the air to clear enough to carry on with life. Some aren’t so fortunate though. It’s best to cover your mouth, nose and ears with your shmag and just do the best you can. They have to keep right on with their work and hope for the best. Last week, Royal Jordanian had to ground their flights because of khamsin. This isn’t an unusual occurrence.

I’m wondering whether there might be a connection between the frequent dust storms we experience and chronic respiratory diseases. It might be worth a bit of research…

Here are a few more pictures to give you a bit of an idea what we face each spring.


Cover your face!

Here it comes!


Jerash; not too serious... yet

Near the border of Jordan, Syria and Iraq


9 thoughts on “Khamsin or, An Ill Wind

    • I was discussing it today with some native friends and learned an interesting little tidbit. Back in the states, we relied on the winter weather to kill off insects. Over here, it’s the dust that does the job. Ain’t it grand how Mother Nature works her magic?

    • It sure isn’t! I forgot to close one window in the flat yesterday when I left for the day. It was sparkling clean when I left, when I got back it looked like it had been abandoned for years. All the laundry hanging on the line had to be rewashed!

  1. This post is fascinating, Jim…thanks for the insight into your life in the Middle East. I’m stopping by from the Challenge, and since I write Biblical Fiction, I’d like to follow your blog! Hope you enjoyed the A to Z Blogging Challenge…


    • Well, well, well! What a wonderful thing for me that you’ve stopped by my place. Thank you so much, and thank you for following.

      I have long considered writing Biblical Fiction. I even have a few stories stashed away. I hadn’t any idea though, that it might be marketable. Frankly, I haven’t done much research about it. I reckon I’ve just been guided by the memory of voices telling me how irreverent, sacrilegious people like me are going to hell… ;~)

      I’ll be popping over to your blog right away to check things out. If I can ever provide you with any information from this side of the world, please be sure to let me know. Thanks again for visiting!

      • Reading God’s Word can give you all kinds of ideas! By the way, my WordPress blog is dormant right now, but, I would love for you to check out my current blog at:
        If you like what you see, you’re certainly free to follow me!

  2. Hey Jim, those are scary pictures. They remind me of a Tsunami rolling in except it’s all dry. My cousin is just returned from living in UAE and talks of dust but they lived in such a modern environment that it seems it had not such an impact as you experience. I’m looking to read more of your Savannah book. Where can I do that?

    • Sometimes it really is scary looking! Just a couple nights ago, after a clear day, the dust came rolling in so thick I couldn’t see anything beyond my next door neighbor’s place. The wind was so high it blew over rubbish bins and electric poles. We were without electricity for several hours. Even though we close all the windows and shutters when it comes, the dust still manages to get inside!

      The Savannah scene is a new one I’m writing for the paperback edition of the ebook I published on Amazon back in February. The title is New Yesterdays, Changed Tomorrows. Pick it up over at Amazon now, or wait a few weeks for the paperback edition from Create Space. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy it! Thanks so much for stopping by, Jane!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s