Friday, May 28, 2010

Winds of Malevolence in the Libyan Desert

2. Al Haboob

The peace of the late afternoon is interrupted by a sudden eruption of extreme violence. A black cloud gathers at the horizon and races across the desert in the shape of a huge ball of whirling sand. In one otiose moment the earth’s surface is scorched and laid bare as if by a host of howling demons. The clothing is stripped off the back of the unfortunate traveller, whose orifices are penetrated with a fine dust that fills the tiniest crevices and renders all food and drink unpalatable.

Unfortunate complexities ensue. Wells in outlying villages wells are sucked dry; camels urinate without warning; and sheep and goats are impaled by flying timbers, or dismembered by roof tiles or bricks falling from chimneys. Indeed the abrasive quality of this wind has been known to frost window glass, cut down telephone poles, and blow the paintwork off automobiles.

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