from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. An intensely dry land-wind felt on the coast of Africa between Cape Verd and Cape Lopez. It prevails at intervals during December, January, and February, and is charged with a thick dust which obscures the sun; it withers vegetation and dries up the skin of the human body. During the prevalence of the harmattan the middle of the day is characterized by great heat, while the nights are unusually cool.
Nevertheless, the effect of the Harmattan is not really injurious to health; it is remarked that it even purifies the atmosphere, by destroying the noxious vapours with which it is replete on the conclusion of the rainy season.
A fog or haze is one of the peculiarities which always accompanies the harmattan. The gloom occasioned by this is so great, as sometimes to make even near objects obscure.
This word may come from the Arabic ‘ḥaram,’ evil thing.