Historic Snowfall Alexa Shuts Down Middle East

Published December 15th, 2013 - 11:57 GMT

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bethlehem
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Image 1 of 12: With more than one foot of snow, Bethlehem received an early white Christmas. The frosty white covered the city, making Manger Square, the site of the first Christmas, truly a "cold winter's night that was so deep."

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Image 1 of 12: Jerusalem’s blizzard was perhaps a bit unorthodox: not only is it the highest record of snowfall in 50 years, but even Israeli authorities decided to lift the usual Sabbath travel ban to allow stranded travelers to leave the snow-covered city.

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Image 1 of 12: People of the Book...or in this case, snow: Muslims, Jews and Christians--and all their holy sites alike--slept under the same frosty blanket of snow in Jerusalem.

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Image 1 of 12: Hashemite Hero: As snow continued to fall on Amman Saturday, residents found themselves accompanied with an unlikely royal companion, King Abdullah II, to help dig their cars out of layers of snow around the country's capital.

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Image 1 of 12: Standby, travelers: Wintry conditions froze flight schedules throughout the Middle East as high winds, heavy rains, snowfall, and even hail delayed flights in--and out--of the wintry mix. Many flights were even canceled from Amman’s Queen Alia as well as Beirut’s Rafic-Hariri international airports.

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Image 1 of 12: One for the history books: After 112 years, Cairo once again was a wintry wonderland. Egyptians took to the streets, but this time to build snow sculptures. Hopefully the near zero temperatures have helped to cool off heated turmoil that has engulfed the capital in recent weeks.

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Image 1 of 12: Snowball effect: Syria’s blizzard sidelined some rebel fighters from fighting on the fronts, with members of the Free Syrian Army choosing frosty balls of snow to pelt each other rather than their usual weapons of choice.

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Image 1 of 12: However, not all was fun and games in Syria’s snow, as many other rebel groups continued to battle on the front lines against regime forces in places like Aleppo and Adra.

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Image 1 of 12: Syria’s civilians suffered region-wide as well: Heavy snow, rains, and winds left Syrian refugees in Jordan's Zaatari camp chilled to the bone with the desert area reporting near-zero temperatures.

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Image 1 of 12: Conditions in Lebanon’s Bekaa refugee camp were particularly harsh as well, where over 100,000 refugees living in makeshift plastic tents huddled together to keep warm due to fuel and related supply shortages.

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Image 1 of 12: And when it rains, it pours: While other parts of MENA were covered in snow, Gazans found themselves swimming. More than 4,000 families have been evacuated via boats from the flooded territory where many homes are already under water.

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Image 1 of 12: And in true Bedouin form, our furry friends also braved the cold as it snowed--and rained--cats and dogs throughout the Middle East!

For the last three days, historical snowfall Alexa has battered the Middle East blanketing the region in frosty layers of white.

 

Areas in higher altitudes, such as Jordan’s capital Amman, have been covered with almost a meter of snow, and in Cairo, Egyptians received their first dose of the cold, white stuff since 1901!  To put things in perspective, the last time there was snow in Cairo 112 years ago, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia-as we know them today-were not yet even established as countries!


Other parts of the Middle East also experienced “once-in-a-generation” levels of snow. Jerusalem last saw this much snow 50 years ago and Lebanon’s Bekaa region’s colossal one meter of snowfall is the highest recorded snowfall since 1953!


Across the region, adults and children alike reacted with a childlike spontaneity to the unexpected snowfall. Many took to the streets to build snowmen and make snow angels, while others pelted fluffy balls of white at companions. For a region used to seeing scorching temperatures, the novelty of a winter wonderland was a frosty treat that melted many shivering faces into warm smiles of excitement.


However, there were hundreds of thousands of people for whom the snowfall was nothing short of a disaster. Yes, of course, there were the folks who were stranded at home and at airports, but the snow served as a real challenge for those who have already been stranded for months-and years-due to the ongoing conflict in Syria. For refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, as well as those internally displaced in Syria, the snow has brought sickness-and even death. The New York Times reported that more than 9 children have died in Syria from the frosty weather and in Lebanon, where more than 100,000 refugees stay in plastic tents, young children are fighting off the cold huddling together in plastic tarps.


Click through the slideshow to see how historic storm Alexa brought surprise, joy as well as despair across the Middle East.

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