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The Winds of Alexandria

The Khamseen winds, the hot winds that streak the hard blue desert sky with grayness, choke the Eastern Mediterranean during the spring with their suffocating walls of sand. Their name, derived from Arabic, means fifty, the approximate number of days in the storm season. When the Khamseen winds pass through an area, the humidity can drop to below 5%, and even in winter, temperatures can climb above 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). No wonder Miriam, in The Deadliest Sport, attributes Gershon’s hearing loss to his having been scorched by their fever.

But then comes the longed-for relief, the Etesians, the strong northwesterly winds that originate in the Aegean and whisper across the Mediterranean to temper the summer sun. Recurring annually—their name derives from the Greek etesios meaning annual—they clear the skies and bring the cool breath of their continental air to Alexandria.

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