Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dust-ups frequent as ill winds blow in Jerusalem and environs

Call it ham'seen (in Arabic) or sharav (in formal Hebrew). It's that whining wind that blows desert sands from Saudi Arabia to Israel in the spring. Some Israelis, like author David Grossman, call this dusty breeze a "yellow wind", and it stirs up unsettling emotions. Things do get tenser. It blows detritus against all the barriers and the barbed wire and makes the jackals howl. Fights break out in the stalled traffic and it's hard to see what's coming.Definitions don't really do this warm wind justice

The Sharav or Khamsin, is a scorchingly hot, dry desert wind which blows from the Arabian Desert from May to mid-June and from September to October. It last for two to five days at a time.

Today seems far cooler and clearer after a few bloated raindrops spattered on the stones as the sharav blew itself out, leaving upturned billboards and smouldering forests in its wake. If this is the year's first ill wind, then stand by for another 48 days of dust gusts to endure before the autumn.
In Delhi, whenever the desert winds blew from the Thar, vendors hawk dusters at the traffic lights. Haven't noticed such weather-themed enterprise around Jerusalem, where no body seems to take great pride in the shine on their automobile. But there have been noticeably more sirens than usual since the wind started up. Gusts feel less gritty today, and the sun shafts have a steely edge as if the air itself has been scoured.
Here's a Cairene blogger's view of the phenomenon, and as he seems to be a bit of a cyber-sleuth, it's worth reading the poems and scientific details the Arabist unearthed.

The same wind buffets us all in the Middle East: something to remember when nuclear fallout threatens to blow us all away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the fabled yellow wind swirl out of the east to set the land ablaze
Khamseen baby...even Katie COuric encountered it yesterday in Egypt!