The white calm after the storm: when the Middle East got snowed-in

Published January 10th, 2013 - 21:17 GMT

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Amman gets flooded, then snowed in
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Image 1 of 12: Jordan gets snowed in: Even ahead of the snow, the Kingdom called a state of emergency. Government ministries were closed due to heavy snow, with the army called in to reopen roads in the beleaguered capital - still flooded from torrential rain. But some Ammani residents were taking it all in their stride, having a warming smoke or two.

Jordan Zaatari camp under water
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Image 1 of 12: Zaatari riots: Refugees in Jordan's now infamous camp for homeless Syrians attacked aid workers with sticks & stones when torrential rains flooded their tents. The army were brought in to stem the tide of frustration. Children's play-area tents became temporary accommodation for 900 people - a number set to snowball after Thursday's snowstorm.

Syrian refugees in Turkey given the cold shoulder
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Image 1 of 12: Hitting icy rock bottom: Turkey's refugee camps plummet into icy conditions. Floods swamped the camps in Turkey leaving Syrians already out in the cold facing further misery of increasing shortages of supplies, low temperatures, and record snowfalls.

Beirut Lebanon coping with the Middle East's snowstorm
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Image 1 of 12: Lebanon's name practically means white, snow-capped, but the Levant winter freeze reached deadly proportions with mortalities reported. At least 4 died as a result of the cold crisis, including a man in the Bekaa Valley who froze to death in his car after a night's drinking. Others drowned in the storm's flooding of this water-quenched country.

Lebanon's camp gets snowed under
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Image 1 of 12: Lebanon's camp community took the brunt of the region's raging winter: bad weather sparked widespread flooding, prompting chaos on the roads and nationwide closures. At least 156,000 Syrian refugees have stopped off in Lebanon on top of pre-existing populations of Palestinian refugees - all of whom were vulnerable to the ravages of the storm.

West bank floods from the Middle East snow and rain storm
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Image 1 of 12: A river runs through it: The West Bank was a flood zone for much of the week, leaving 2 women dead in the wake of the Levant storms, after their car was swept away in flooding caused by unusual storms that have swept the Middle East with rain, snow and hail.

Jordan's election posters blown
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Image 1 of 12: Soggy, sodden electoral campaign posters make a clean sweep a long shot: Refusing to be wet-drips and bow-out from their face-off in the build up to Jordan's January elections, political campaigners faced the elements to rescue fallen election signs swept up in the stormy currents. At least their competition had also been blown out the water.

Sinai, Egypt
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Image 1 of 12: Any port in a storm for snowy Sinai: Mideast storm forces port lockdown: Several ports in Egypt were forced to close and traffic through the Suez Canal was cut in half because of harsh conditions.

Syria's snow with medics in Homs at prayer
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Image 1 of 12: Pictures surfaced of Assad and family making a snowman while beleaguered Syrians froze it out. The picture posted to his 'official' Facebook page was clearly dated but got chins wagging in disgust at the very idea of their president at play. In another snowy place in Syria, medics bunkered down to pray. Mosques across the country turned white.

Tabouk, Saudi Arabia
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Image 1 of 12: When Saudi Arabia freezes over you know it's the storm of a century, not just the decade as this Middle Eastern storm is being dubbed. It was a snow ball's chance in the desert, but the snow-storm from Russia reached the tips of Arabia and the Saudis came out to play in the snowy sludge rather than their sinking sand.

Al Aqsa mosque turns snow-white
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Image 1 of 12: A holy sight for sore eyes: The snowstorm may have been an unwelcome visitor and was certainly a blight on lives, livelihoods and infrastructure but one couldn't help but pause to admire some of the region's iconic symbols resplendent in snow-white: Jerusalem and Al Aqsa mosque turned into a winter dream after heavy overnight snowfall stuck.

Jordan laughs at its snowy condition
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Image 1 of 12: It wasn't all bad news: Jordanians received the freak-storms with a humor, more typical of their counterpart Egyptian funny men, posting jokes online about ‘Hurricane Wadha’. One Facebook enthusiast pegged Amman the Venice of the Mideast, hosting glass-bottom boat tours. Others posted pics of crocodiles, sharks & penguins swimming the streets.

The Russian winter swept through the deserts and up the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East in the last few days, causing havoc on roads and shutting down government services. The storm brought strong winds, torrential rains and deep snow to parts of Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.

At least 11 people were killed in the Levant storm, which caused panic-buying of basic staples like bread. Heavy rains that preceded the snow storm flooded parts of Jordan, where the government locked down and a state of emergency was declared in the capital, Amman, with the army brought in to clear the streets.

With conditions already difficult for Syrian refugees and internally displaced people inside Syria, the storm only added to their woes. In Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, refugees rioted and attacked aid workers in a 'blanket protest' out of frustration after winds and rain swept away their flimsy shelters.

But the downpour and snow-strife was also met with humor, as Jordanians took to the web to poke fun at the situation. Commenters posted altered pictures of sharks and penguins swimming through the streets, while Facebook users spread mock news, including a report that a car had hit a jet skier on the Amman-Zarqa highway.

The rains and snow were certainly unwelcome for many who suffered the chaos and trauma of the ravaging storm, but could prove beneficial to Jordan, which has one of the world’s lowest annual rainfalls. Dams in the country have overflowed, prompting hopes of relief from the country’s water crisis.

Jerusalem was transformed into a "winter wonderland" ahead of the weekend after heavy overnight snowfall turned the Holy City and much of the region white, rounding up children to Church, Mosque or Temple faster than the Pied Piper of Hamelin!

Anecdotes and urban myths arose in all the snow-mania, such that it became hard to separate fact from fiction. One tweet caught the attention of the snow fans: "True to form, Jerusalem snowball fight apparently turns into clashes between Israelis & Palestinians".

 

Share your snowy experiences, traumatic or light-hearted fun! Were you caught up in the stormy weather in a spot in the Middle East not mentioned?  Do tell us in the space below.



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