Harmattan Season


From December through January, Ghana experiences the Harmattan. Its when winds blow down from the Sahara, bringing dust and dry air. The winds don’t actually blow here, but we get this white haze that looks just like fog or humidity. In reality, its zillions of tiny dust particles that settle on everything. My friend Esther described the coming Harmattan weather as being ‘foggy and dry,’ which I couldn’t fathom, but now I see.

You think its harmless until you go outside at night and see all the particles floating in the air under the ship’s powerful side lights. Then you know you’re just breathing it all in. The stagnant air also traps the smoke from thousands of cooking fires, so sometimes its very smoky. It is also cooler here, and dryer, and nice not to be sweating profusely when one goes on outings.

Ghana is very dry right now — the two rainy seasons didn’t amount to much rain at all last year. The crops and greenery are looking very dry too. Lake Volta, with its Volta Dam, is the sole source of electricity for Ghana. With the lack of rainfall, the lake is low, and they’ve had rotating rationing blackouts throughout the country. If your power goes out at 6 in the morning or evening, you know it won’t be back on for another 12 hours until 6 evening or morning. Sometimes we’ll drive through parts of Tema which are completely unlit, which is a little unnerving. But people survive well enough with oil lamps and generators when lucky enough to have them. On the ship, we have an independent source of power with the ship’s generators, so it never affects us.

A view of the Harmattan’s haze from the roadside. Its common to see people walking along the roads, as its the only form of transportation for many. You also see children carrying things as much as adults, as all must work.

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