Saudi Arabia’s north-west desert covered in snow after unusual winter storm
15th Jan 2020
A powerful storm bringing sub-zero temperatures has transformed parts of the Saudi Arabian desert into a winter wonderland.
- The storm covered Tabuk, 192 kilometres from the Red Sea, in dusty white snow
- Videos shared online show camels shuffling through snow instead of sand
- While snow is rare, Saudi Arabia last experienced falls in April last year
Residents of Tabuk, 193 kilometres from the Red Sea, awoke to see the region’s dry desert coated in white snow, leaving many in awe.
Tabuk, one of the coldest regions in Saudi Arabia, typically dips to 4 degrees Celsius at this time of year but it is usually dry, according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Eric Leister.
“A powerful storm tracked from southern Europe and the Mediterranean into the Middle East last week, pulling cold air into the region and resulting in the snowfall,” Mr Leister said.
Videos began circulating online showing camels shuffling through snow instead of sand, as residents enjoyed some snow play.
And it did not take long for the higher areas near Tabuk which were blanketed by the snow to become popular with locals and tourists in the area, local media reported.
Images of the unusual scenes quickly went viral, with people across the kingdom and in neighbouring countries clamouring to view and share them.
But despite the large amount of social media posts from residents, many users questioned the authenticity of the videos.
While snow is rare in Saudi Arabia, it is not completely out of the ordinary.
The country last experienced comparable snowfall in April last year.
“[It’s] not crazy for them to get snow, it’s just typically dry,” Mr Leister said.
The snow caused some disruptions for Tabuk residents, but the brunt of the storm hit other parts of the Middle East.
Farther to the east, the United Arab Emirates suffered torrential rain that left Dubai and Sharjah flooded.
“This same storm system then tracked farther east and caused deadly flooding and heavy snow, with avalanches from Iran into Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Mr Leister said.
Recently, winter avalanches have claimed at least 69 lives across Kashmir in Pakistan and India.
In Pakistan, at least 53 houses have been completely destroyed by avalanches, with rescuers managing to pull more than 50 people from the snow.
Severe cold and heavy snow has also led to the death of 39 people in six provinces of Afghanistan in the past two weeks.
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