I woke last night to the sound of thunder, as Bob Seger used to sing, and whether it was an explosion, I sat and wondered.
It wasn't. It was a precursor to rain. Rain! It doesn't precipitate much in Baghdad, to say the least, and the cool drops brought a welcome change. The temperature dropped, the air cleared, the dust settled. People seemed to smile just a little bit more. At least I did.
The rain started Monday evening and continued, off and on, through the day Tuesday and into Wednesday. Puddles formed. Raindrops pattered. Steps became slippery.
What's the big deal with a little rain, you ask? Baghdad gets an average of 2.7 inches per year, according to this website. (I've tried to do the centimeters-to-inches conversion for you, dear reader). The average rainfall for July is: zero. The weather here tends to be unchangeable, deadeningly predictable, in fact. It's burning hot in summer; dry, sunny and dusty the rest of the year. Winter, which is just setting in, brings cooler temperatures, occasional clouds and, like Monday and Tuesday, a bit of rain. It actually snowed, just a dash, here in January 2008, the first anyone can remember.
The rain this week was the longest continuous rainfall in recent years, my Iraqi colleagues say. It was especially good news for Iraq, which has been suffering under a years-long drought. It has harmed the date industry, one of Iraq's main agricultural exports, and sent water levels dropping.
Like virtually everything else in Iraq, the storm drainage system doesn't work very well, especially on little side roads and alleys. Large puddles collected in the middle of roads. Some, even in a protected compound where parliament members and other VIPs live, smelled a bit, well, odiferous.
I didn't mind too much. It rained!