Khamsīn , chamsin or hamsin (Arabic: خمسين khamsīn,
"fifty"), more commonly known in
Egypt as khamaseen (Egyptian Arabic:
خماسين khamasīn, IPA: [xæmæˈsiːn]), is a dry, hot,
sandy local wind, blowing from the south, in
North Africa and the
Arabian Peninsula. Similar winds in the area are sirocco and simoom.
Arabic word for "fifty", throughout the Levant, these dry,
sand-filled windstorms often blow sporadically over a fifty-day period
in spring, hence the name.
When the storm passes over an area, lasting for several hours, it
carries great quantities of sand and dust from the deserts, with a
speed up to 140 kilometers per hour, and the humidity in that area
drops below 5%. Even in winter, the temperatures rise above 45°C due
to the storm. The sand storms are reported to have seriously impeded
both Napoleon's military campaigns in
Egypt as well as Allied-German
North Africa in World War II. In the southern Levant
(Israel, Palestine, Jordan) it takes the shape of an opressive weather
front with hot temperatures, large quantities of dust impeding
visibility, but no strong winds.
1 Causes and history
2 Cultural references
3 See also
5 External links
Causes and history
Khamsin can be triggered by extratropical cyclones that move eastwards
along the southern parts of the Mediterranean or along the North
African coast from February to June.
In Egypt, the khamsin usually arrives in April but occasionally can
occur between March and May, carrying great quantities of sand and
dust from the deserts, with a speed up to 140 kilometers per hour, and
a rise of temperatures as much as 20 °C in two hours. It is
believed to blow "at intervals for about 50 days", although it
rarely occurs "more than once a week and lasts for just a few hours at
a time." A 19th-century account of the khamsin in
These winds, though they seldom cause the thermometer of Fahrenheit to
rise above 95° in Lower Egypt, or in Upper
Egypt 105°, are
dreadfully oppressive, even to the natives. When the plague visits
Egypt, it is generally in the spring; and the disease is most severe
in the period of the khamáseen.
The same account relates that Muslims in
Egypt "calculate the period
of [khamaseen] ... to commence on the day immediately following the
Coptic festival of
Easter Sunday, and to terminate on the Day of
Pentecost (or Whitsunday); an interval of forty-nine days."
During Napoleon's 1798 Egyptian Campaign, the French soldiers had a
hard time with the khamsin: when the storm appeared "as a blood[y]
tint in the distant sky", the natives went to take cover, while the
French "did not react until it was too late, then choked and fainted
in the blinding, suffocating walls of dust." During the North
African Campaign in World War II, "Allied and German troops were
several times forced to halt in mid-battle because of sandstorms
caused by the khamsin... Grains of sand whirled by the wind blinded
the soldiers and created electrical disturbances that rendered
In Israel, the khamsin (Hebrew: חמסין) is known more formally
as sharav (שרב). 
Egypt in 2007
In the Hebrew Bible, it is called ruaḥ qadīm (רוח קדים) or
"east wind", and is considered to be the wind of God.
In Israel, the word khamsin carries political connotations. It was the
name of a magazine published during the 1970s and 1980s by a group of
Middle East exiles in Europe, including members of Matzpen.
Khamsin was also the title of a 1982 Israeli film about a clash
between a Jewish landowner and his Arab workers in a small farming
village in the Galilee. The film was selected by the Israeli Film
Board as their nominee for the
Academy Award for best foreign-language
film in 1983.
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell also has a vivid
description of the Khamsin.
"Khamsin" is the name of the third movement of the composition Warm
Winds, recorded by the Hollywood Saxophone Quartet in the 1950s.
"Khamsin" was the codename of one of the characters from the video
game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
"Khamsin" was the name of a Flame Haze in the anime, Shakugan no
Maserati Khamsin is a grand tourer produced by
1974 and 1982.
In The Adventures of Tintin, in the volume "Land of Black Gold",
Tintin, his dog Snowy and the twin detectives Thomson & Thompson
face this storm
^ Giles O.B.E, Bill. "The Khamsin". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved
Egypt Climate and Weather". Tour Egypt. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
^ OED online.
^ Humphreys, Andrew (2002). Cairo. Victoria: Lonely Planet. P. 19.
^ Lane, Edward William (1973 ). An Account of the Manners and
Customs of the Modern Egyptians. With a new introduction by John
Manchip White. New York: Dover Publications. P. 2.
^ Lane, p. 488.
^ Burleigh, Nina (2007), Mirage, New York, Harper, p. 135.
^ DeBlieu, Jan (1998), Wind, New York, Houghton Mifflin, p. 57.
^ a b Philologos (April 4, 2003). "Fifty Days and Fifty Nights".
JewishForward.com. Archived from the original on 2007-04-26. Retrieved
^ "Khamsin". Matzpen. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
^ Kronish, Amy. "Arabs on Israeli Screens". Archived from the original
on 2007-01-26. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
^ "Oscar Film Critical of Israel". The New York Times. January 24,
1983. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Khamsin.
Khamsin on Winds of the World
Pictures of khams