January 12, 2008 in Nation/World

Rare snow showers delight the war-weary in Baghdad

Christopher Chester Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Iraqi girls enjoy playing in snow in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad, on Friday. Baghdad residents saw snow for the first time in memory Friday. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

BAGHDAD – The flakes melted quickly. But the smiles, wonder and excited story-swapping went on throughout the day: It snowed in Baghdad.

The morning flurry Friday was the first in memory in the heart of the Iraqi capital. Perhaps more significant, however, was the rare ripple of delight through a city snarled by army checkpoints, divided by concrete walls and ravaged by sectarian killings.

“For the first time in my life I saw a snow-rain like this falling in Baghdad,” said Mohammed Abdul-Hussein, a 63-year-old retiree from the New Baghdad area.

“When I was young, I heard from my father that such rain had fallen in the early ‘40s on the outskirts of northern Baghdad,” Abdul-Hussein said. “But snow falling in Baghdad in such a magnificent scene was beyond my imagination.”

After weathering nearly five years of war, Baghdad residents thought they’d pretty much seen it all. But as muezzins were calling the faithful to prayer, the people here awoke to something certifiably new.

Snow is common in the mountainous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, but residents of the capital and surrounding areas could remember just hail.

Summer temperatures in Baghdad are routinely a sweltering 120 degrees and winters are generally mild.

But this week has been unusually cold and blustery. On Thursday morning, the thermometer hovered around freezing after a low of 27, and the Baghdad airport was closed because of low visibility.

“I asked my mother, who is 80, whether she’d ever seen snow in Iraq before, and her answer was no,” said Fawzi Karim, a 40-year-old father of five who runs a small restaurant in Hawr Rajab, a village six miles southeast of Baghdad.

“This is so unusual, and I don’t know whether or not it’s a lesson from God,” Karim said.

Some said they’d seen snow only in movies.

Talib Haider, a 19-year-old college student, said “a friend of mine called me at 8 a.m. to wake me up and tell me that the sky is raining snow.”

“I rushed quickly to the balcony to see a very beautiful scene,” he said. “I tried to film it with my cell phone camera.”

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