The Khamsheen Winds, the last of the Coptic Gales are here. The air is thick and heavy. Everybody has a sore throat and irritated eyes.

Sounds like the opening of a Wilbur Smith novel. But it isn’t.

Coptic Gales

There are fourteen Coptic or Phoenician gales, between the end of September and the beginning of May, each named by Arabic fishermen. The gales come each year at broadly the same times. I am no meteorologist, and I can’t comment on the science, but there’s definitely something to these romantically named phenomena.

The storms often bring sand from the Middle East and Africa, of various hues. It can settle like snow. The red stuff is the worst. It’s a swine to get off garden furniture and cars, particularly if it comes down with rain. If there is no rain, then the dust simply constantly appears and reappears, silently settling on every surface. Many visitors feel that they must have brought a cold with them, that manifests as a scratchy throat and sore eyes.

When the gale comes as a real storm, it’s very identifiable. The sky is dark, the temperature changes (up or down) and winds and rain turn everything red or yellow. Then the skies clear, everyone cleans up and gets on with their lives.


However, things are not always as straightforward. The Khamsheen Winds are due on the 29th of April, and since around that time, (it’s now May 3rd) there has been dust in the air. Some days have been unusually cool, some unusually clammy, and we have had winds; but a storm, per-say, has not quite happened. We’re in limbo, on the cusp of Summer, but not quite free of the last Spring storm. Some years, the dust just stops coming and one morning all is clear. I look forward to breathing easier soon.


Our weather remains cooler than normal. It’s actually pleasant, mid 20s centigrade (mid 70s to 80s Fahrenheit) during the day. Ideal for pottering around in the garden and playing golf. In true British fashion, everyone is so busy lamenting the wet winter just passed and predicting a long, too hot summer, that they are forgetting to enjoy the perfect temperatures of today.

Right, I’m putting my shemagh on, and gazing into the sky, with a faraway look. I might even play the soundtrack of Lawrence of Arabia for effect…