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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 17:31 GMT
Cold snap brings Gulf rare snow
Snowfall in Ras al Khaimah
The snowfall was the first in living memory for many residents
Snow has fallen in the United Arab Emirates for the first time in years, shocking residents of a desert country better known for its 50C summer heat.

Meteorologists reported heavy snowfall on the mountains of Ras al Khaimah, the federation's most northerly Emirate, as a cold snap gripped the region.

Many people told local media it was the first snowfall there in living memory.

"This is certainly a rare occurrence that happens every 20 to 30 years," a forecaster told Reuters news agency.

Prayers for rain

Local newspapers said people were stunned by the white blanket of snow in the Al-Jees mountain cluster.

The range "had heavy night-time snowfall for the past two days as a result of temperatures dropping to as low as -5C [23F]", according to the Gulf News.

A snow-covered farm in Ras al Khaimah
In November, the Emirates' leaders asked people to pray for rain

Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, crown prince and deputy ruler of Ras al Khaimah, visited the mountains to see the snow and brought some back to show people, the paper said.

Temperatures in Dubai, which attracts large numbers of tourists seeking winter sun, dipped as low as 12C (53.6F) on Wednesday night. In summer they can top 50C (122F).

Heavy rain led to hundreds of accidents on the roads on Monday, Dubai's police said, because drivers were unaccustomed to the conditions.

Forecasters said the region's chilly spell would probably end by next week, AFP news agency reports.

Only a month ago, UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other sheikhs led Muslims across the Emirates in prayers for rain.

Demand for water has far outstripped supply in the UAE in recent years, with rainfall well below the seasonal average.

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