Villages in Morocco More Used to Heatwaves are Stranded by Heavy Snowfall and Bitter Cold

Steven Agar | | WeatherWeather
morocco, africa, atlas mountains, sahara, heavy snowfall, bitter cold
Family homes surrounded by snow-covered hillsides. Credit: Mosa’ab Elshamy, AP

In an African country that borders the Sahara, the population is more used to sweltering heat waves. But this winter bitter cold and exceptionally heavy snowfall have beleaguered parts of Morocco, disrupting schools, closing national highways, and delighting residents in cities where it hadn’t snowed for decades reports

The effects are starkest in the north African nation’s Middle Atlas mountains, home to many hard-to-reach villages with poor infrastructure. Getting in or out of the hill towns hidden among dense forests and peaks over 9,800 feet high is never easy. Many of the narrow, treacherous lanes can only be traversed by four-wheel-drive vehicles, donkeys or more typically, on foot.

morocco, africa, atlas mountains, sahara, heavy snowfall, bitter cold
Kids making the most of the snow. Credit: Mosa’ab Elshamy, AP

This year, the 150 families living in Tighanimin, a village 311 miles south of the Moroccan capital, Rabat, were stranded when the rocky mountain paths disappeared under three feet of snow. Temperatures routinely plummetted below freezing after sundown, and the homes aren’t equipped with electricity or running water.

The majority of Tighanimnin’s residents are shepherds, the only source of income in the village, according to Saeed Ahmad, a 39-year-old father-of-five.

It’s a tough winter but the heavy snowfall also brought joy, at least for the children of Tighanimin. Youngsters scaled steep mountainsides with plastic bags and sledded down the slopes. In the evenings, families reunite by the fireside for meals of bread, olive oil, soup, tea, and occasionally meat.

morocco, africa, atlas mountains, sahara, heavy snowfall, bitter cold
Villagers ride their donkeys through snow-covered mountains. Credit: Mosa’ab Elshamy, AP

During winter, the Middle Atlas are far from the burnt orange landscape and warm blue skies familiar to Morocco’s visitors. But the blanket of white shows no signs of receding just yet.

“It has been very stormy and snowy,” he added. “But once the sun comes out, it’ll be better.”

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