The Forty

Amman, Jordan

Winter is here in earnest today. It’s cold and rainy and blowing a gale. They call this wind al-marba3inia, which comes from the word for 40, because these winds are common in an approximately 40-day window in the fall and early winter. This is similar to the khamsin that is common over a 50-day period in the spring in Egypt.

This has kept me occupied for most of the evening thinking about the prevalence of the number 40 in this region. It shows up a lot in the Bible. Many Muslims, especially Shi’ites, and Orthodox Christians mark the 40th day after a person dies with special rites. The Egyptians took 40 days to embalm a body.

To understand a people, you must live among them for 40 days.
~Arabic proverb


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