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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 January 2021

Environment

UAE weather: Al Ain freezes over as temperatures sink to -5°

Ice covers cars and greenery in the Abu Dhabi desert

Latest: Ice in the desert - how cold does winter get in the Middle East?

Temperatures in parts of Al Ain sank to a freezing minus 5° on Monday morning.

Residents had to scrape ice from cars and icicles formed around trees and plants.

The extreme weather happened in Raknah, close to a wadi in Abu Dhabi emirate, and has been tracked by Storm Centre UAE.

Storm Centre has popular social media channels dedicated to covering the region's extreme weather.

We have never experienced such cold weather in the UAE before

Hamdan Al Eissaaee

Dozens of residents also gathered to experience the weather and some were forced to light a fire because the freezing conditions.

“This is my third day here,” said Emirati businessman, Hamdan Al Eissaaee, 28.

“I came on Friday after midnight and I wasn’t prepared. I did not expect it to be that cold.

“It was minus seven degrees [at one point]. I could barely stay for an hour and a half.”

Mr Al Eissaaee said he learnt his lesson and was dressed in full gear for the night. He arrived with four of his cousins on Monday at around 2am.

“At first we were excited to feel the cold temperature. We have never experienced such cold weather in the UAE before,” said his cousin Ali.

“But two hours later it got too cold so we had to light a fire.

“In the summer we escape the heat by turning on the AC and in winter we escape the cold by lighting a fire.”

'I'm cold-blooded'

Two young men who stood in freezing cold all night only dressed in light kanduras, said they disagree.

“I am cold-blooded I guess. I don’t see the need to dress warm,” said Hamad Al Mazrouei, 20.

The Emirati student was not even wearing any form of head cover, just a light kandura – the white traditional dress worn by local men.

“I am trying to absorb as much cold as I can before it gets burning hot,” said Abdullah Al Dhaheri, 30.

Fahad Mohammed, co-founder of the Storm Centre, said the team has been going every night to record the temperatures. He said across the Levant conditions were similar.

Fahad Mohammed, of the UAE Storm Centre, as the temperature drops below freezing. Victor Besa / The National 
Fahad Mohammed, of the UAE Storm Centre, as the temperature drops below freezing. Victor Besa / The National

“On the first day, the temperature dropped to minus seven degrees at some point and remained at minus six most of the time," he said.

“When we poured water on anything, it immediately froze.”

Sultan Al Mansouri, 26, a photographer from the Storm Centre team said: “We did not get rain this year but thank God we were compensated with the freezing cold."

The team was founded in 2006 by Mr Mohammed, Ali Al Neyadi, Omar Al Nuaimi, Hamad Al Kaabi, Abdullah Al Jaberi and Ahmad Al Barq.

“None of us studied weather-related sciences. We all started as a hobby,” said Mr Al Neyadi, 30.

“We are from different emirates and each one reports on the weather changes in his area and we measure the strength of the wind and based on it we predict where the rain will be.

“During summer we chase rains and we went to a number of cyclones.”

Mr Mohammed said he loved nature and was dedicated to capturing its beauty.

“We chase storms, rains and snowfall everywhere in the region.”

He said their hobby proves risky at times, like when they chased Cyclone Mekunu that hit Salalah in 2018.

“We were in the middle of the tornado,” he said.

“We covered the snowfall on Jebel Jais in 2017 and 2009 and 2008.”

The freezing temperatures do not represent a record. The National Centre of Meteorology is official source of weather data in the UAE.

Updated: January 12, 2021 09:48 AM

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