Lebanon's Epic Weather This Week: Newsworthy?

It was ridiculously cold in Lebanon this week. Frigid, in fact. The storm commenced last Monday, February 9th, throwing down inclement rain across gloomy stretches of sky and evolving in subsequent days into howling gusts of wind, thunder, and lightning.

Though the wind eventually subsided, the rain persisted into this week, and temperatures plunged Thursday and Friday to near-zero levels in Beirut. Thursday evening, we lingered after work in the downtown district for dinner, and seated by the restaurant window, we felt an austere pounding outside. Large spheres of hail shot down from the sky and onto the stone-studded passages. Within minutes, Place de l’Etoile morphed into a white wintry wonderland, and the ground become dangerously icy and slippery.

Place de l'Etoile in downtown Beirut

An offshoot passage of the clock tower leading to Foch Street

Sitting inside Al Balad Restaurant, across from Starbucks. The city was a ghost town

Friday morning saw real snowfall as low as 300 meters—even our home in Mansourieh witnessed the frosty downfall. Temperatures skirted around historic lows, and schools were closed as precautionary measures.

I am well aware that the fuss over the fleeting white blankets of snow in Beirut may be frivolous, especially when you compare it to the winter from hell the other B-city—Boston—is enduring as we speak. My younger brother is a graduate student there, and he’s been holed up in his studio several times in the past month on account of the substantial snowfall. The city has become a veritable labyrinth of snowbanks so high they peak over parked cars. Streets have transformed into snow-walled corridors, and the city has come to a virtual standstill.

Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, Boston (Dominick Reuter/European Pressphoto Agency)

I sent my brother photos of the Beirut snow, and he dismissed me derisively: “You ain’t seen nothing!”

Snow and extreme cold in our beloved Lebanese capital is a novelty, but in other parts of the world like New England, the sheer volume at which it is falling this year is debilitating and anxiety-inducing. There’s certainly nothing romantic or endearing about it.

Which goes to confirm how hyperbolic of a people we Lebanese are. We make mountains out of mole hills and overhype any slight aberration beyond perversion! You could say we are experts at entertaining ourselves.

But hey, I’m not complaining. Today temperatures in the city are back up to a bearable 14°C. The sun is out and beating across the cloudless horizon. Long live the moderation of the Mediterranean waters. Long live Lebanon. 


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