Home Arab world After 5 years of siege, Ramadan market opens in Douma

After 5 years of siege, Ramadan market opens in Douma

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Syrians browse merchandise at a mall in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma. May 2018, (AFP )
By Middle East Affairs 

After seven years of wars, Syrians in the now destroyed city of Douma, who are able to afford it can visit a market and buy goods for the month of the Ramadan.

The Trade Ministry of the Syrian government is hosting the market which is located in the large square in Douma, once a site for the opposition. Douma is the largest city in  Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

Last month government forces recaptured Ghouta, after heavy fighting that displaced tens of thousands to areas controlled by the Syrian regime and to opposition-held areas in the northern part of the country.

The market which opened on Sunday is receiving many visitors from Douma and the surrounding parts, who are looking to make purchases for their now wrecked homes.

Visitors could find basic home goods such as detergent and stables in Syrian cuisine such as yogurt and coffee.

One of the shoppers, Umm Mohammad, a 50-year-old mother clad in a full body black rope and face veil, was bogged down with bags of food for her family. She told AFP, “I’m going to rush home to my children after buying them butter and halawa,” she said, referring to a crumbly, sesame-based sweet. She did not purchase a can of processed meat which she deemed too expensive for her budget.

The five-year siege in the area had previously made food, medicine, and just about everything else hard to find or at a premium price, but today prices in the market were just a snippet of what they cost months ago.

During the siege, Ghouta’s 400,000 residents had no choice but to rely on scarce humanitarian aid or products smuggled in through tunnels. Stocks in store quickly diminished and were unable to be restocked because roads were overtaken and deliveries could not be brought through the heavy fighting.

Looking at a packet of napkins, a 42-year-old resident of Douma, Hassan Saryoul, reported AFP, “I haven’t seen this in years.”

“Napkins were like drugs — virtually banned. A kilo of sugar cost 22,000 Syrian pounds (around $50) but now it’s around 500 pounds,” Saryoul said to AFP.

Happy to see such provisions, “If I could carry even more things, I would have,” he said boggled down with heavy bags in both hands.

Outside the market, the reality of the war remains heavy-hit buildings by ammunition, ruined cars, and rubble from the aftermath of fighting filling the streets.

Ghouta was overtaken by the opposition in 2012 and fell to a siege in 2013. Last month, the Syrian government aided by their ally Russia overtook Ghouta by military forces and population transfer deals.