Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Ramadan in Damascus… People Stay Home, Souks Lack Holy Month Spirit | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People walk past a convoy carrying humanitarian goods waiting to enter the besieged area of Moudamiya Al Sham, at the last checkpoint which is controlled by Syrian government forces, in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

London- Jams, Naem bread, Maarouk bread, Qattayef filled with nuts or Qashta (special snacks for the holy month of Ramdan) have filled the streets along with all the savory delicacies on the Damascus streets.

Jellab, licorice syrup, Tamerhindi, Qamareddine reflect the identity and traditions of the old Damascus souks. Everything in the Syrian capital is going according to the traditions of Ramadan, with one thing missing; the spirit.

Popular markets, which were known for their cheap prices, are now buzzing with unreasonable high prices that are leaving people shocked. For example, three pieces of Naem bread would cost 600 Syrian Liras. Normally, Naem bread is fried and toasted with raisin molasses; it is considered the cheapest sweet usually sold on the sidewalks during the month of Ramadan.

The month of Ramadan arrived for the sixth year while Syrians are still drenched in their blood and worries, with everything around them looking sad and miserable.

Lamia, a Syrian resident walking in the Shaalan market, said: “We were waiting for the month of Ramadan to buy products we don’t usually buy on normal days, such as almonds, green walnuts and Baklava. But now, we just look at what is displayed and can barely afford to buy small quantities of what we like.” Lamia says that several years ago, she used to buy 10 kg of mixed salted nuts for 5,000 Syrian Liras a week ahead of Ramadan. Today, she said: “I bought 200g of calabash seeds and 200g of peanuts for 1,200 Syrian Liras. As for Arab sweets, I couldn’t dare come near them. The price of a medium quality kilogram costs 11 thousands lira.”

Damascus streets were packed with Syrians one day before the start of the month of Ramadan. However, activity decreased during the first and second days. Abu Tamam, a Syrian who sells licorice syrup and who eagerly awaits this Holy month, said: “People are hiding at home. Everybody is disgusted and bored from what is happening.’ Abu Tamam hoped the economy would improve in the mid of the month.

Minister of Internal Trade Jamal Chahine had previously asked merchants to lower their prices by up to 20 percent, and had threatened to take legal measures against any violation.

However, when touring the local markets, one can notice that prices did not drop by more than 10 percent, because merchants had bought their products when the dollar was selling at 640 Syrian Liras, and not at its current price of 450 Syrian Liras, which fell one day before the start of Ramadan.