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Jerusalem in the snow

11 December 2011

I had to share this – an extraordinarily evocative image of Jerusalem, from an uncaptioned, uncredited collection here (well worth viewing) that was tweeted today by @IssaEB. Have a look:

It’s one of the most beautiful, poetic images of Jerusalem I think I’ve ever seen.

It shows the Dome of the Rock, half-draped in snow, viewed from Al Aqsa looking northward. (How do I know? This exceptional narrated tour with panoramic photos helped.)

If you’re surprised by snow in the Middle East, Jerusalem stands roughly 750m (2500ft) above sea level – winters can be very cold.

Maybe someone can tell me more about the image. It was taken at some point in the late 19th or early 20th centuries – but when? I wonder which year saw that much snow in Jerusalem. The website publishing the collection says nothing, though it has many more images of snow piled high in the streets of Jerusalem, presumably taken the same winter. Who’s the photographer?

The bearded man standing guard looks like he’s wearing a greatcoat, tied at the waist, and has a fur hat with a point that looks Central Asian to me. His whole costume seems unusual to me, for a guard at the gates of Al Aqsa, but perhaps it was the Ottoman imperial influence at work. Does anyone know more?

But, regardless, the image takes me off somewhere rare and special. I could look at it all day.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. 11 December 2011 3.57pm

    Its a very interesting city

  2. 12 December 2011 7.12am


    There are some amazing photos at the link as well. Thanks for sharing Matthew.

  3. 12 December 2011 8.13am

    Thanks, both – interesting, mesmerizing, that covers it!

  4. Ziad permalink
    12 December 2011 10.47pm

    Most probably this collection is part of the American Colony Photography Department (for more info check this article

    The snow pictures were taken during the 1921 great snow storm.

    The American Colony Photography collection was later donated to the Library of Congress, and the collection can be accessed online:


  5. 13 December 2011 9.30am

    That’s fascinating – thanks so much, Ziad. Looks like you’re right. Here’s the image on the LIbrary of Congress website:

    More snowy 1921 pics here:

    Thank you!

  6. 13 December 2011 9.40am

    Update – it seems the version uploaded to the site I originally saw was cropped. Look again at the Library of Congress link – and this person’s tumblr

    Seems like there’s a bit more height on the image. And more clarity, too. Is the bearded man wearing glasses? Why is he facing into a strong, cold wind that’s blowing snow directly into his face. Why has he got his mouth open? What HAS he got on his head?

    And why do I care?

  7. Allan permalink
    28 January 2012 10.40pm

    I saw that hat in a documentary movie on Hassidic Jews,who migrated to America from the Ukraine after World War II. They seem to wear it at festive occasions like parties. I never saw one on the streets on New York City, where Hassidic Jews pretty much own the diamond trade in the area near times square.

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