Almost Harmattan in Costa Rica

A Dakar, Senegal Mosque Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean — Photographed while in The Gambia & Senegal, 1999-2002.

A few readers know or remember that I once live in The Gambia, West Africa for three years with many experiences recorded on this same website found by following my AFRICA Travel Page links or going directly to pages for The Gambia and Senegal. I made both of the above photos in Dakar, Senegal.

I got one of my first shocks the first month there when I told the guards that it looked like a rain storm was coming from the north, even though it was “The Dry Season.” They laughed at me and explained that the first month of dry season was called Harmattan and was when the sand and dust from the Sahara Desert blew south and west and that we would soon be covered in dust and sand, thus close your windows. I closed them and it did not help much with everything in the little apartment covered in dust or sand. Incidentally, some years that same Harmattan blows part of the Sahara Desert all the way across the Atlantic to Costa Rica. Really! 🙂

In Costa Rica it is not called “Harmattan,” but we have a similar experience any time from late December to mid-March when the wind blows almost constantly and everything is dusty. It is not as heavy as West Africa, but it is for a longer period of time with just dust, not desert sand (usually)! It is worse if one of the volcanoes is erupting and we get the gray to black volcano soot like I’ve had a few times from Volcán Turrialba. 🙂

Thus when another WordPress Blogger posted this Poem by Danusha Lameris, I saved it to share right now during our “mini-harmattan” or windy weather or dusty season, none of which are titles Costa Rica brags about for our “Dry Season” (most popular tourist time). And incidentally, this years winds seem to be stronger and at night much cooler than the previous 6 Dry Seasons for me here. Now North Americans wouldn’t consider the low 60’s Fahrenheit cold, but that’s a “two-blanket night” here! 🙂


It covers everything, fine powder,

the earth’s gold breath falling softly

on the dark wood dresser, blue ceramic bowls,

picture frames on the wall. It wafts up

from canyons, carried on the wind,

on the wings of birds, in the rough fur of animals

as they rise from the ground. Sometimes it’s copper,

sometimes dark as ink. In great storms,

it even crosses the sea. Once,

when my grandmother was a girl,

a strong gale lifted red dust from Africa

and took it thousands of miles away

to the Caribbean where people swept it

from their doorsteps, kept it in small jars,

reminder of that other home.

Gandhi said, “The seeker after truth

should be humbler than the dust.”

Wherever we go, it follows.

I take a damp cloth, swipe the windowsills,

the lamp’s taut shade, run a finger

over the dining room table.

And still, it returns, settling in the gaps

between floorboards, gilding the edges

of unread books. What could be more loyal,

more lonely, and unsung?

~Danusha Lameris

¡Pura Vida!



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