Winter can be synonymous with beauty for Alexandria, as many people love to visit the city in winter. However, today the season is associated with more contradictory ideas, even among its inhabitants.
“It is as if it is the first time that people recognise that it is winter and that rain usually falls in winter,” said Mohamed Abdel-Razek, a social media specialist, who lives in Alexandria.
“I cannot understand why people are surprised when winter approaches or when we get heavy rainfall. It seems that people are forgetting what winter was like in the 1980s and 1990s,” he added.
Abdel-Razek was referring to the decades when schools were never closed because of rainfall, unlike today. The governorates did not issue holidays or interruptions to normal daily lives.
“I remember quite well how we used to go to school despite the heavy rainfall and fog. There was a bit of a traffic jam, but we arrived back to our homes safely,” Abdel-Razek said. “Nowadays, it is quite the opposite. Instead of dancing in the rain, people are afraid of it.”
He believes people are exaggerating in what they write on social media about the winter season. Yet, some Alexandrians say the opposite.
The city was hit by heavy rainfall last week that led to two inches of water in the streets when drainage systems failed to absorb all the water. The government suspended schools and gave a break to employees two days after the storms.
“Our infrastructure is really bad. The rainfall has been really heavy. Several major tunnels have been flooded, creating traffic jams and blocked streets,” said Nada Shabbara, a housewife and the mother of a six-year-old son.
“When it rains, Alexandria becomes paralysed,” she added.
Shabbara said that sometimes people demand holidays just because of a few drops of rain, but at the same time it is safer for schools to be closed, she said. “We, the adults, will manage if we get stuck somewhere, but children will not be able to return back home safely if they get stuck,” she said.
“Sometimes, the situation gets really ugly here,” she added.
The last couple of years have seen flooding that has paralysed the city for hours or even days. For this reason, the Alexandria governorate has suspended schools and public bodies when heavy rainfall or thunderstorms are expected.
Winter can be associated with at least seven kinds of phobias, possibly explaining such reactions. According to the US National Library of Medicine, there is lilapsophobia, the fear of severe weather conditions, especially tornadoes and hurricanes. Chionophobia is the fear of snow or being trapped in hazardous driving conditions or confined indoors. Ombrophobia is a kind of phobia that hits people who are afraid of the rain or getting ill because of the rain, or getting depressed because of gloomy weather.
The fear of being trapped in winter due to rainfall or storms is often associated with cliethrophobia. This is a type of winter phobia in which people are afraid of being locked or stuck in small spaces. This kind of phobia gets worse in winter when people are triggered by rainfall or getting stuck in traffic or a flooded tunnel.
Though we might not be aware that we suffer from at least one kind of winter phobia, these types exist in Egypt. “Last year, my son and I were stuck for seven hours in a traffic jam after heavy rainfall. We were just leaving school, and the pouring rain flooded the entire street,” Asmaa Hathout, a teacher and the mother of two children, told Al-Ahram Weekly
“Many schools, especially those in remote areas, do not have adequate drainage systems.
I remember a crisis last year when a thunderstorm hit the city. Tunnels were flooded, and people got stuck for several hours. Many students were stuck in the streets, arriving home late at night due to the rainfall and the heavy traffic jams. It was chaotic and scary for our children,” Hathout said.
“I agree that the schools should be closed when there are similar thunderstorms, not because the parents or the students are afraid of the rain, but because people can get stuck and may end up getting home at 9-10pm after spending a day in the streets.”
The heavy rainfall that took place last week caused damage to many parts of Alexandria. It made some people who were waiting for winter hate the season. Many shops lost money due to the rainfall that hit premises in alleyways and narrow streets.
Ahmed Samir, an Alexandria carpenter, said his workshop had been submerged under water. Some equipment and unfinished products were ruined.
“I rescued what I could, but I also lost a lot due to the lack of a good drainage system. The narrow street where I work is often flooded, and no vacuum tankers come to drain the water,” he said.
“I used to love Alexandria in winter, but with each winter comes deterioration and destruction. So, how can I still love it,” he asked.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.