I would have liked to write about snow for this article. That’s what I had been promised when I came to Jordan. It’s what I had planned for this article – the oddity of snow in the desert. The past few years have seen heavy snowfall in Amman, it has become the norm.
Yet there has been no snow. Freezing fogs, yes. Freezing rains, of course. We’ve had sleet and ice and cold breath-clouds billowing out when we lie in bed at night. But no snow.
It would have been nice to have snow. It got to -10 last year. This year we’ve only got down to -5. Taxi drivers, shopkeepers, forecasters… all have promised veritable inches of snow. Some have foreseen the worst snow in 50 years. But Amman is a melange of microclimates. Areas ten minutes away from my flat are 500 metres higher than me. The forecasts have been different in every district. Somewhere in these shifting climates, where predictions of snow have receded hour by hour, the winter weather has become lost.
This has not yet been relayed to Amman residents, it would seem. A strange hysteria set in at the earliest sniff of snowflakes. Teachers were convinced we would have snow days – brief respite from a fairly arduous schedule. The Monday prior to the ghost snows saw six days’ worth of bread bought in just one. The government sent in a fleet of snow ploughs and heavy duty trucks with caterpillar tracks. They roamed the snowless city, in desperate wake of the slightest of flurries.
In the Jordan Times, photos were published of areas in Amman blanketed in snow. They insisted the photos had been taken that day, despite my home being just to the side of the photo taken. Needless to say, there had not even been a whiff of settling snow throughout the day. A friend of mine was barred by her host family from making her way to school one day. They gestured to the bare roads outside, claiming it was too dangerous on account of the snow. Sirens went off in some districts, warning people not to leave their homes for fear of what I can only surmise to be some kind of snowman serial killer.
there had not even been a whiff of settling snow throughout the day
It has been, in effect, a country persuading itself some meteorological disaster was taking place. In reality, it was a child kicking its feet on the floor and refusing to go to school because it had been promised snow. To complete that image, I might add that the main university closed its doors for two days, and other institutes less hardy than my own shut up shop for the week. Still, there has been no settling of snows. It has appeared, it has fallen through the air, it has dissolved on the sad wet tarmac almost instantaneously. And now, snow has disappeared from the forecasts, at least for now, and the opportunity is lost.
I can understand the hysteria a little. There is no real insulation or central heating in most buildings, certainly none that are particularly affordable. It’s freezing, almost constantly. Having to care for the very young or the very old must be a nightmare. And when it has snowed enough for even the slightest amount to settle, the streets turn to havoc. The roads aren’t salted and, for a city where you find yourself going either uphill or downhill (and both steeply), this poses a significant problem. Taxi drivers go slow at these times, with legitimate concern that they may end up sliding without control to the very bottom of whatever hill they struggled upon.
That said, there was no snow upon the ground. It leaves me with just one conclusion to make. Either this is a country that loves a bit of drama, or is terrified of it. I suspect it is a little bit of both.