On December 20, for the first time in nearly 40 years, the most unlikely sight of a snow covered Sahara Desert was captured in stunning pictures by Karim Bouchetata, an amateur photographer.
He stated that the rare occurrence on Monday, in the small town of Ain Sefra, lasted only a day on this northern edge of the Sahara, in Algeria.
The last time that the area, traditionally called “The Gateway to the Desert”, experienced a similar winter snowfall, was for half an hour on February 18, 1979. The small French garrison town, which is situated in the Atlas Mountains, usually experiences high summer temperatures of around 37C, to lows of -10.2C during winter.
His pictures show exquisite swirling pure white patterns draped across the vivid dry orange sand dunes. The delicate patterns formed as the slopes are too steep for snow to settle on them entirely.
While several of the Saharan mountain ranges in Algeria do receive snow on their peaks occasionally, it is due to their height.
For example, the highest Algerian mountain peak, the Tahat summit, reaches low enough temperatures in winter that snow falls there every few years. What makes Monday’s Saharan snowfall so extraordinarily rare and phenomenal is the comparatively low elevation where it settled, of around 1000 meters above sea level – in other words it is not generally deemed possible.
Karim remarked how everyone in his town was utterly stunned to witness a snow storm in the desert. It was probably the first time in their entire lives that many of the citizens of the small town had experienced the feeling of being in a snow storm.