23 photos of the Middle East’s first snowy winter in decades

December 12, 2013

Snow has swept across much of the Middle East, a rare event in this part of the world. Arching south from Turkey, the storm blanketed parts of Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Egypt. While parts of the region often see snow in winter, others are dusted perhaps once in a generation; Jerusalem  last saw this much snow about 50 years ago and the Egyptian capital of Cairo hadn't seen snow in decades. As these photos show, the snow has brought delight to some in the region but has exacerbated the misery of others, particularly those in the vast Syrian refugee camps, highlighting the wide divergence of human experiences across this corner of the globe.

TURKEY


The Ottoman-era Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, in Istanbul. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Syrian refugees pose in the snow in front of their makeshift home in Ankara. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A Syrian refugee and his son walk through Istanbul. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

SYRIA


The besieged city of Homs, covered with snow. (REUTERS/Yazan Homsy)

The Khalid bin al Walid Mosque, in the devastated city of Homs, covered with snow. (REUTERS/Yazan Homsy)

Free Syrian Army fighters play with snow in the eastern city of Raqqa. (REUTERS/Nour Fourat)

A rebel fighter takes aim during clashes with Syrian pro-government forces in the Salaheddin neighborhood of Syria's northern city of Aleppo. (MEDO HALAB/AFP/Getty Images)

Rebels clash with Syrian pro-government forces in the Salaheddin neighborhood of Syria's northern city of Aleppo. (MEDO HALAB/AFP/Getty Images)

LEBANON


Syrian refugees play with snow during a winter storm in Zahle town, in the Bekaa Valley. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

Young Syrian refugees build a snowman in a makeshift refugee camp in the Lebanese village of Baaloul in the Bekaa Valley. (MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images)

A young Syrian plays with snow in the town of Arsal in the Lebanese Bekaa valley. (AFP/Getty Images)

Lebanese men take pictures in front of the icicles in the village of Hammana, southeast of Beirut. (EPA/WAEL HAMZEH)

The Roman ruins of Baalbek, in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, are covered with snow. (AFP/Getty Images)

ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES


A Palestinian woman takes pictures with her mobile of the snowfall in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Arabs throw snowballs as snow covers the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

A man stands in front of the Western Wall as snow falls in Jerusalem's Old City. (Reuters/Darren Whiteside)

Orthodox Jews walk past the Damascus gate in Jerusalem. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

A Palestinian man stands in the snow at Damascus gate outside Jerusalem's old city. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Two Palestinian women play with snow outside al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

People walk near palm trees as snow falls outside Jerusalem's old city. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian man carries a sheep on a farm during snowy weather on Mount Gerizim, near the West Bank city of Nablus. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP/Getty Images)

Manger Square, with the Church of the Nativity in the background, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. (MUSA AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty Images)

A Syrian refugee carries branches of firewood during snowfall in the village of Hammana, Lebanon, southeast Beirut. (EPA/WAEL HAMZEH)
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Max Fisher · December 12, 2013