The day starts out so beautifully, with a clear blue sky and a fresh wind blowing through the streets. But by about twelve o'clock I see deep orange clouds appear behind the apartment buildings. I point to the clouds and ask the boy standing next to me what that is. He looks at the sky, raises his nose in the air and says, "I can smell it already. It's the dust. We have another storm coming."
Now it's getting warmer and warmer in the city. The cars in the streets move like syrup. People have stopped talking. The city shuts its eyes, the shutters close, everyone who is able to withdraws. The ochre-colored cloud now fills the sky overhead and encircles the city like static electricity.
The last chamsin (dust storm) lasted two and a half days. I had the feeling I was sealed up in an old vacuum cleaner bag.
The chamsin originates above the sandy desert in Saudi Arabia, where the air is warmer than here in the northern Sahara. As a result, the dry desert air above Saudi Arabia is sucked into the low pressure area above the Sahara. And poor Cairo waits with closed eyes until the wind dies down and the sun reappears through the haze of dust.