Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Anyone with enough lessons in world geography would know that the uppermost portion of the African continent is home to the largest desert in the world. To be precise, it’s the largest “hot desert”, the heat and dryness of which is enforced by the sun beating down on the place all year round; which is why when something completely unexpected weather-wise happens there, it’s certain to grab attention. Recall the 1980s Band Aid collaborative song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and its line about there wont be snow in Africa in Christmastime. This year however, it skipped rain entirely and went with snow.

The Huffington Post reports that on Monday December 19, a meteorological event that hasn’t happened in the Sahara for nearly four decades has taken place: a freak snowfall happening on the Sahara. Already pictures of the phenomenon have gone online, taken by amateur photographer Karim Bouchetata who lives in Ain Sefra, a town in northwestern Algeria that’s also known as “The Gate to the Desert” due to lying at the fringes of the Saharan dunes at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. These same dunes close to the town were blanketed by a thin yet plainly visible layer of snow that Monday morning. Bouchetata would later tell the Independent, “Everyone was stunned to see snow falling in the desert; it is such a rare occurrence.”

It was fortunate for Bouchetata that the weather remained cold enough for him to take some fantastic photographs of the snow-coated desert sands, before the midday sun melted it all awayAin Sefra is the place to go for this extremely rare chance of seeing the Sahara turning into a winter wonderland for a day. The last time snow managed to make headway against the world’s largest desert was way back in 1979, and it also took place there in Ain Sefra. News reports from the period have it that the snow came in a storm that caused traffic jams in the streets for about half an hour. The town was founded in 1884 during France’s colonial days, as a military garrison.

While summer temperatures in the surrounding area max at 37°C, during the winter months it’s said to get as low as -10.2°C. This practically makes it the only area of the Sahara that can be conducive enough for snowfall, as about half of the great desert receives only an average of less one inch of rain annually, with the rest topping at 4 inches.

For the curious, other places in Algeria that sees snow are their Chrea and Tikjda ski resorts. The only other famous place in Africa to find snow is in Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Photo Credit to