Let me tell you about winds.
There is a whirlwind in southern Morocco, the أجج (aajej—“enflamed”), against which the fellahin defend themselves with knives. There is the hot, dry غيبلي (ghibli) from Tunis, which rolls and rolls and produces a nervous condition. The هبوب (haboob—“blowing”)—a Sudan dust storm that dresses in bright yellow and is followed by rain. The harmattan, which blows and eventually drowns itself into the Atlantic. The إمبات (imbat) a sea breeze from North Africa that blows out the lamps. The خمسين (khamsin), a dust storm in Egypt named after the Arabic word for ‘fifty’—the ninth plague of Egypt.
There is also the —-, the secret wind of the desert, whose name was erased by a king after his son died within it.
And the نفحة (nafhat—“whiff”)—a blast out of Arabia. The مزار-افلسٍ—a violent wind known to the Berbers as ‘that which robs the saints.’ As well as “poison winds,” the سموم (simoom—“toxic”), of North Africa.
Other, private winds.
There are always millions of tons of dust in the air, just as there are millions of cubes of air in the earth and more living flesh in the soil than there is grazing and existing upon it. Herodotus records the death of various armies engulfed in the simoom who were never seen again. One nation was “so enraged by this evil wind that they declared war on it and marched out in full battle array, only to be rapidly and completely interred.”
Dust storms in three shapes. The whirl. The column. The sheet. In the first the horizon is lost. In the second you are surrounded by “waltzing Djinns.” The third, the sheet, is copper-tinted. Nature seems to be on fire.
— Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (slight revision by me, with the inclusion of Arabic)