As we make last minute preparations for Leo's leaving today, a note from a coworker indicated his trip back into Nigeria may not be as straightforward as before. The harmattan has arrived.
"For a few weeks each year, the shifting winds roil southward out of the Sahara Desert, drying out West Africa's air and darkening its skies with sandy grit. The dusty wind grounds planes, coats palm trees in yellow dust and sends inhabitants accustomed to blustery equatorial weather huddling together against an uncommon nighttime chill." (link to full article).
Leo's friend Barry sent him a note this morning warning that flights have been grounded the last few days as this annual weather phenomenon has begun in earnest. The season for the harmattan to blow lasts about 3 months, according to Leo. Although he has yet to actually experience them, even this man that grew up along the hurricane coast has heard enough to make him wary of what awaits him there.
"The harmattan, which is caused by shifting weather patterns, derives its name from the word for 'tears your breath apart' in the West African language Twi..."
Yikes! A wind called tears your breath apart? I'm guessing that's quite a wind! I'll be sure and post an update from Leo if/when I get one after he arrives.
I'm posting a few additional links here to articles I found interesting or engaging while researching the harmattan:
- The Long Harmattan Season - an often interesting blog from a Nigerian national journalist
- Scenes of Africa and Arabia - some absolutely beautiful photography from the other side of the globe
- Harmattan Haze - an article about stranded flights on Christmas Day at the airport where Leo is headed
Well, our packing continues and we are both doing a good job of keeping the tears back. I'll cry after I drop him off at the airport, I'm sure. I mean...that's now a part of my regular routine!