Residents of Baghdad rushed to have snowball fights or take photographs Tuesday as the Iraqi capital woke carpeted in white by only its second snowfall in a century.

A snowball fight amid the palm trees -- young boys enjoy only the second snowfall in a century to carpet Baghdad and central Iraq A snowball fight amid the palm trees -- young boys enjoy only the second snowfall in a century to carpet Baghdad and central Iraq Photo: AFP / Mohammed SAWAF

The last recorded snowfall in the city was in 2008, but it was a quick and mostly slushy affair -- and prior to that, it had been a century since Baghdad saw any flakes.

Iraqis young and old said it was the first time they had ever seen snow falling in Baghdad.

The only previous snowfall in Baghad in the past century was a short and mostly slushy affair in 2008. Tuesday's snowfall was more substantial The only previous snowfall in Baghad in the past century was a short and mostly slushy affair in 2008. Tuesday's snowfall was more substantial Photo: AFP / SABAH ARAR

The city's iconic palm trees were daintily outlined in white, and the tarpaulins of the long-running anti-government protest camp in Tahrir Square in the city centre were sprinkled with snow.

An Iraqi man snaps pictures of the ultra-rare snowfall in Baghdad, a city where summer temperatures can hit 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit) An Iraqi man snaps pictures of the ultra-rare snowfall in Baghdad, a city where summer temperatures can hit 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit) Photo: AFP / SABAH ARAR

People on their way to work stopped their cars to snap pictures or break out into impromptu snowball fights.

"Snowfall may continue until Wednesday given the very cold weather," said Amer al-Jaberi, media head of the Iraqi Meteorological Centre.

Snow carpets Iraq's main northern city of Mosul, nestled on the banks of the River Tigris Snow carpets Iraq's main northern city of Mosul, nestled on the banks of the River Tigris Photo: AFP / Zaid AL-OBEIDI

"This cold wave came from Europe," he told AFP.

Residents of Baghdad rush to have snowball fights and take photographs as the Iraqi capital woke carpeted in white by only its second snowfall in a century Residents of Baghdad rush to have snowball fights and take photographs as the Iraqi capital woke carpeted in white by only its second snowfall in a century Photo: AFPTV / Ayman HENNA

The people of Baghdad are more used to heat than cold.

The highest temperature recorded in the capital was a searing 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit), a record it has neared several times in recent years.

South of the capital, snow also carpeted the Shiite holy city of Karbala, which draws pilgrims from round the world to its famed shrines, the golden-domed mausoleums of Abbas and Imam Hussein.

Snowfall is more common in northern Iraq, where snow covered the war-battered city of Mosul, but in the centre and south there is rarely enough precipitation.

Iraq has been hit by a succession of extreme weather events in recent years.

Blistering temperatures then hit the north triggering wild fires and scorching crops.

Experts say Iraq lacks the funding or infrastructure to cope with climate change and the desertification of once productive land.