Enveloped in a Sheen of Dust: The Harmattan

By Piyushi Dhir

When I landed in Ivory Coast a year ago, I was rather delighted with the weather. The notorious African sun was nowhere to be seen, and despite being situated so close to the equator, it was far from hot. Days were cloudy and one could comfortably sit without a fan or air conditioner during the daytime. After leaving behind the bone-chilling winters of Delhi in India, I could not have expected a better outcome than being spared both, extreme heat and cold.

I discovered soon enough that what I was seeing and experiencing was deceptive. It was the time of the infamous Harmattan. What I thought was a hill-station-like mist in the air was actually a haze of dust suspended in the air. Every year, between December and March, when the rains are scarce, the dust from the gigantic Sahara desert of Africa rises and makes its way to the waters on the west-coast. As a result, most of West Africa finds itself enveloped in a sheen of dust.

The Dust Haze of Harmattan

The practical problems of this weather phenomenon were apparent to me soon enough. The abundance of dust particles in the air means that everyone, locals and foreigners alike, are very prone to dust allergies, sore throats and illnesses. I was somehow spared any malady last year, but this year, my maid and I promptly fell victim to the first bouts of Harmattan. The diseases in this season are very easily transferable, and I remember seeing proof of that in the Olam family last year, when all ladies and kids fell sick in quick succession during the season.

Apart from taking care of one’s health, herculean efforts need to be put into keeping the house clean. You may wipe a surface free of dust, only to find a coat of grime on it again within the hour. Ladies and maids alike can be found battling the Saharan desert sands vigorously in their houses for the first few weeks, until many of them just give up and decides to wait for the season to pass.

This is after all, just another season, and like all others it too shall pass. It will make way for the dry heat, when the African sun will blaze down upon us without mercy. And that season in turn, will be followed by the drenching, unending rains which will bring life to a soaking halt.

And so on and so forth…

For seasons come, and seasons go…

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About the Author

Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.