But yesterday morning, as muezzins were calling the faithful to prayer, the people here awoke to something certifiably new.
For the first time inmemory, snow fell across Baghdad.
Although the white flakes quickly dissolved into gray puddles, they brought an emotion rarely expressed in this desert capital snarled by army checkpoints, divided by concrete walls and ravaged by sectarian killings — delight.
“For the first time in my life I saw a snow-rain like this falling in Baghdad,” said Mohammed Abdul-Hussein, a 63-year-old retiree from the New Baghdad area.
“When I was young, I heard from my father such rain had fallen in the early ’40s on the outskirts of northern Baghdad,” said Mr Abdul-Hussein.
“But snow falling in Baghdad in such a magnificent scene was beyond my imagination.”
Morning temperatures uncharacteristically hovered around freezing, and the Baghdad airport was closed because of poor visibility. Snow is common in the mountainous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, but residents of the capital and surrounding areas could remember just hail.
Some said they’d seen snow only in films.
Talib Haider, a 19-year-old college student, said: “A friend of mine called me at 8am to wake me up and tell me the sky is raining snow.
“I rushed to the balcony to see a very beautiful scene,” he said. “I tried to film it with my cell phone camera. This scene has really brought me joy.”
An Iraqi said he woke his wife and children shortly after 7am to “have a look at this strange thing”. He then called his brother and sister and found them awake, also watching the “cotton-like snow drops covering the trees”.
For a couple of hours anyway, a city where mortar shells routinely zoom across to the green zone became united as one big white zone. As of late afternoon, there were no reports of violence.