Credit: The National
2008 was the first time it snowed in Baghdad, Iraq in 100 years. Before then, there were just a few records of snowfall in a thousand years. For many residents of the Middle-Eastern nation, that was the first time they’d seen so much as a snow flurry. To those who witnesses it, the magic was not lost. Rightfully so, it was assumed this would be the last time in a long time that anyone would witness snow.
But on February 11, 2020, that magic struck again.
Winters in Baghdad reach average lows between 35 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. An usual cold swept over the area, dropping temperatures to about 27 degrees– the perfect “storm” for some snow. By early morning on February 11, there was an estimated two inches of snow dusting the ground.
“We couldn’t believe it. My kids pressed their faces against the windows and just stared at it,” Mustafa Ali a father of three in Baghada says. “They said it was like magic.”
In the mountainous regions of the northernmost part of the country, blankets of snow are fairly common. South of that, snow is more of an urban legend than a reality people face. It is truly a treat that a large portion of the country be blanketed in snow.
The rare sight, though freezing in nature, warmed the hearts of men, women, and children alike– a sensation most certainly welcome in a country so impacted by political strife. After weeks of ongoing protests calling for increased job opportunities, government-provided services, and more, the pillow-y softened the tensions, if only for a moment. It was as though the city silently agreed to stop and enjoy themselves.
“It felt as if something great was happening, and we stayed outside even though it was freezing,” one protestor, Ghaith Ali, says. “It was worth it.”
With climate change on the rise, Iraq has been hit by a variety of weather extremes in recent years. Soaring temperatures killed crops and instigated wildfires. Water shortage caused a health crisis for the people of central and south Iraq.
It isn’t lost on anyone that the snowfall is a symptom of a larger problem. However, it also isn’t lost on anyone that the snow is often seen as a symbol of peace. When the country, the surrounding area, and the entire world seems to be in the midst of turmoil, taking a moment to enjoy the simple things– like rare snowfall on a Baghdad morning– is precious.