Jeff told me that the airport at Alexandria (a city a couple hours from Cairo) had been closed because of the sandstorm.
I found a video on YouTube of a Sandstorm in Cairo.
Here's another video from YouTube of a sandstorm in Kuwait.
Sandstorms are caused by winds that pick up loose sand and dust from the desert. There are particular seasons in desert regions when sandstorms, also called dust storms, are more likely. Here is a satellite photo taken by NASA of a sandstorm over Afghanistan and Pakistan taken on August 24, 2010:
Sometimes visibility during a sandstorm can be really bad, the desert equivalent of a snowstorm. This video shows this:
I found this article on the recent sandstorm we experienced. In Alexandria, a factory apparently collapsed, with the accident blamed in part on weather conditions. The article discusses how 29 ships were barred from passing through the Suez Canal during the storm. There were winds up to 40 knots on the canal. All 8 of Egypt's ports on the Red Sea were closed. The article says residents were warned to stay inside. Visibility was said to be only 300 meters.
We didn't hear the 'stay inside' warning at the time. It wasn't so bad in our neighborhood (no rain and mild winds). I was surprised when I went to pick Cameron up from school that all the kids were kept inside instead of playing on the playground as they usually do at the end of the day. Cameron asked if he could play outside and I said sure. It was colder than usual, but still nothing compared to New England winters. Jeff, Cameron and I decided to go to a restaurant that night. The streets were pretty empty, probably because this weather is quite cold for Egyptians. People are wearing hats and scarves.
Our terrace is now covered with a layer of dusty sand. During the afternoon of the sandstorm, I could even smell the dusty air inside our bedroom... it had seeped into the room through the air conditioning unit I guess. We were glad to discover last night that the air conditioning unit is actually a heater as well so we could be toasty warm last night despite the chilly night air.
The day after the sandstorm it was clear and sunny again. We still haven't seen a drop of rain since we've been here.