AFP — Dec 13, 2013
A winter storm has brought snow to Cairo for the first time in decades and has blanketed parts of the Middle East.
Jerusalem was left covered in snow, forcing police to block access to and from the city.
Egypt’s state MENA news agency said the country’s two Mediterranean ports near the city of Alexandria and two ports on the Red Sea remained closed for the third consecutive day Friday.
“It is the first time in very many years” since the last snowfall in the suburbs of Cairo, Ali Abdelazim, an official at Egypt’s meteorological centre, told AFP.
Precipitation of any kind is rare in Egypt so the rare sight of snow has been much talked about on social networking sites such as Twitter.
In Syria’s contested northern city of Aleppo, soldiers and rebels took a break from fighting as the temperatures on the deserted streets hovered around zero.
“All the fighters are cold and hiding,” the activist who uses the pseudonym Abu Raed said.
The cold weather was part of a storm, dubbed Alexa, which has been pounding much of Lebanon and parts of northern Syria since Wednesday, pushing temperatures below zero in mountainous areas and dumping snow and heavy rains.
The snow has heaped another layer of misery on the already grim existence of many of the more than two million Syrians who have fled the civil war raging in their homeland.
In Lebanon, snow fell on northern and eastern regions where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are staying, many of them in flimsy plastic tents.
The weather even featured in talks between visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator, said the snow in Jerusalem made him feel “at home”.
“I have heard of making guests welcome and feeling at home. This is about as far as I’ve ever seen anything go … giving me a New England snowstorm.”
In the West Bank and Gaza, UN relief teams offered emergency services to the worst-hit communities.
In Gaza, which was experiencing its first snow in a decade, more than 500 people were evacuated from their homes, according to Hamas spokesman Ihab Ghussein.