The Harmattan Haze


Coconut and Plantain tree in Harmattan HazeHey, it’s Winter here in the Motherland. Quite an unbelievable season, actually. I know some of you are having cold weather – where my midwest relatives have had snow and single-digit temps – and even in the Pacific Northwest there has been a little white stuff on the ground!

Well, here in Africa, it is of course totally different. For instance, it was 95 degrees on Christmas Day! (Not to brag or anything, but it’s just incredible to me.) And it will continue to be in the mid- to high-90s for the next two months, I understand. So walking around in summer clothing is definitely the way to go right now. Ah, but we are paying to play…

For this is also Harmattan (or Harmmattan) season, which is when the trade winds blow south from the Sahara across certain regions in Africa, creating dust-storm like conditions in countries closer to the desert, and hazy conditions further away  like in my area (the southern part of the western hump). Now if it was just haze, it would be bearable. But when you add in other things like dry throats, dry lips, dry burning eyes, etc., you have conditions that our weathermen would call “Code Red. Stay Inside!” In addition, the mornings and evenings are cooler (i.e., in the 60s) while midday gets up to the 90s – very disorienting. My body is again making its adjustments accordingly — sneezing, sniffling, stuffiness, throat distress, etc. And after Harmattan (lasting December thru March) comes – the Rainy Season!

The Harmattan Season, marked by hot, dusty, windy days and chilly nights, is best prepared for. Here is what I am told I should have: Lip balm, Moisturizing body lotions and creams with sun screen, Petroleum jelly, Breezy dresses, Sweaters and shawls,   Mentholated ointment for cold nights, Water, Sun hat, and Sun glasses. Check, check, and check!

Speaking of the Winter season, if you are wondering how I celebrated my Christmas here, that is also of course quite different. While in the U.S. our family day celebration with huge dinner and gifts is typically December 25th, the most celebrated day here is December 26th, which is called Boxing Day. Christmas Eve is spent drinking (some call it “Booze Day”) and Christmas Day is spent at church services. And all these live chickens and roosters walking around, or being sold in massive quantities at the market, or pecking around in many yards – into the pot you go!

Also there have been some questions sent to me through Comments or the Contact Form (please use both as often as you like) about Kwanzaa, and whether it is celebrated here. And I will say that, just like the Thanksgiving holiday is strictly an American tradition, Kwanzaa is strictly an African-American tradition. Although rooted in the harvest festival celebrations of the African Continent (hence “first fruits”), Kwanzaa was created to give us of African descent in the U.S. (and greater Diaspora) the cultural roots that would “connect” us to the Continent. So no Thanksgiving, no Kwanzaa, and there may be other celebrations not here from the U.S., and other celebrations not in the U.S. but here, like Farmers Day and Boxing Day, both official national holidays in Ghana.

In any event, I’m definitely missing Kwanzaa this week, but not missing the cold. Enjoy yourselves, and join Sweet Honey in the Rock in a chorus for me please!



Coconut and Palm trees in Harmattan haze