Temperatures soared across northeast Africa, the Levant and beyond on Wednesday before wind and sandstorms drove people indoors. Unlucky pedestrians throughout the region tried to shield themselves from the sun with books, newspapers or anything they could find.

In Libya, as the winds increased in the desert south, an orange-red sandstorm billowed. In the town of Jalu, Tuesday’s temperature of 43C, was knocked back to 30C by Wednesday as a wind from the Gulf of Sirte overrode eastern Libya.

That meeting of winds caused a sandstorm, driving residents of the Libyan coastal city of Beyda indoors.

The heat was driven ahead of the wind and next in line was Egypt.

In the capital, Cairo, the thermometer hit 44C in the afternoon, a level rarely touched this early in the year. The sandstorm later turned skies brown.

Air traffic control in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria reported that the sand obscured visibility so badly that they had to shut down Burj Al Arab airport and divert three flights.

The Gaza Strip suffered particularly from the heat, because of electricity shortages that meant little air conditioning. Temperatures surpassed 40C, but Palestinians were spared the sandstorm. Those still homeless after last year's war tried to ease the heat by spraying water onto the tents in which they live.

In Iraq, the temperature has been topping 40C for days and the wind change there produced a huge sandstorm, a proper haboob. The city of Fallujah was engulfed by flying sand, gradually covering its skyline. The city's narrow streets saw day turning into night, leaving local residents in darkness.

For the weekend, the wind is expected to continue to blow from the Mediterranean, sometimes strongly. Libya, Egypt and the Levant will remain cooler and sandstorm-free.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies