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Rare Snowfall Brings Moments Of Winter Wonder To Middle East

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Parts of the Middle East were encased in snow yesterday. Along with it, giggles and wonder filled the region. NPR's Ruth Sherlock in Beirut and Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem sent these postcards.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Along the Mediterranean Sea in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians were pelted with rare hail...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: ...Enough to make little snowmen wearing coronavirus masks. In Jerusalem, a worshipper at the Al-Aqsa Mosque praised God...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: ...And joined the crowd filming the flakes falling on the golden Dome of the Rock.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Laughter).

ESTRIN: In front of the shrine, a girl in pink boots threw snowballs. It hadn't snowed in Jerusalem in six years. Israeli reporter Nir Hasson met ultra-Orthodox Jews, Palestinian teens, Indian caregivers and Tel Aviv snow tourists in a park at 2 a.m.

NIR HASSON: I met hundreds of people celebrating the snow. The snow in Jerusalem is like a super-religion that united all other religions in the city. People pray for it all year long. It was fun.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Hundreds of miles away in parts of Libya, people witnessed the first snowfall in 15 years. And in Saudi Arabia, people posted videos of camels looking confused as their humps turned a snowy white. In Syria, we speak with Ahlam Rachid.

AHLAM RACHID: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: She says the snow has been difficult for the thousands of refugees in tents in the north of the country but that despite the cold, the snow brings sparkle and joy to the children.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Laughter).

SHERLOCK: She sends us a video she took of 4-year-old Mohammed and 3-year-old Wissal. They stand outside their home in a refugee camp in sandals.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: "Dad, we can play in the snow," they shout. "We're playing in the snow."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TALJ TALJ")

FAIRUZ: (Singing in Arabic).

SHERLOCK: And in so many countries around the region, people played this song by the beloved Lebanese singer Fairuz - "Snow Snow."

Ruth Sherlock.

ESTRIN: Daniel Estrin, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TALJ TALJ")

FAIRUZ: (Singing in Arabic). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.