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.