THIS fearful scourge to the traveller in the East sometimes occurs so near to Cairo that its hot and oppressive effects extend to the city, but it is less frequent there than to the East of the Libyan range, and in the great deserts of Arabia. The Turks distinguish it by the name of Samieli, and the Arabs call it the Simoom; in Egypt it is better known as the Khamsin. It only reaches the valley of the Nile and sweeps over the Delta; when it accompanies the winds from the south-south-west and south-west, these winds are then very hot and most oppressive, and bring with them the fine sand of the Desert, which gives a murky hue to the atmosphere, and so obscures the sun, or refracts his light, that he appears enlarged and of a blood-red colour, lurid and appalling.

That heated and subduing state of the atmosphere so frequently felt by travellers in Southern Italy, is called the Scirocco, which, blowing over from the African deserts, still retains enough of its dry and suffocating power to be remembered for its withering influence; it is a sort of exhausted Simoom, which has traversed and been cooled by the air of the Mediterranean, and left its surcharge of fine sand to sink into that sea. Those who have felt its depressing influence in Italy may imagine how pestilential the Simoom is to all travellers who encounter it in its impure and unchecked state in the Desert, where it is so often found to be destructive of animal life. On perceiving its approach, travellers envelope their heads in their drapery, or throw themselves on the ground. The camels are said to be sensitive of its approach, and lay their heads close to the sand to avoid its effects.

Bruce, who describes it as an exceedingly hot and enervating wind, frequently felt its influence, and once, when he and his company were on their way to Rascid, they became so enfeebled that they were incapable of pitching their tents. Each wrapped himself in his cloak and resigned himself to rest till it passed. "The poisonous Simoom blew as if it came from an oven; our eyes were dim, our lips cracked, our knees tottered, our throats perfectly dry, and no relief was found from drinking an immoderate quantity of water. The people advised me to dip a sponge in vinegar and water, holding it before my mouth and nose, and this greatly relieved me."

One remarkable effect has been perceived in these "blasts," they frequently consist of a quick succession of hot and cold gusts of wind, with differencs of temperature between these gusts of more than 20˚ of Fahrenheit's thermometer. These affect the human body, and produce extreme feebleness and even death, for it is very probable that such great and sudden changes of temperature conduce to this end; and it is believed that the hot gusts bring a pestilential air, as a putrid and sulphurous smell is at such times perceived. It is even asserted that the hot air is heavier than the atmosphere: this may account for the Arab mode of avoiding the danger to which they are often exposed; instead of placing their mouths near the ground, they generally cover them with the kefieh, or kerchief, which they bear on their heads.

Bruce's Travels