DOUMA: Ahead of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, a market in Syria’s ravaged Douma is drawing hundreds who can finally afford food, cleaning supplies and toys after years of siege.
Sponsored by Syrian regime’s Trade Ministry, the four-day market opened on Sunday in a vast courtyard in Douma, the main town in the one-time opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta near the capital.
Regime forces recaptured Ghouta last month after a ferocious offensive that displaced tens of thousands, both to regime-controlled zones around Damascus and to opposition-held parts of northern Syria.
Those who stayed are trying to piece their lives together, and many from Douma and the surrounding towns headed to the market on Sunday to buy goods for their damaged homes.
Crowds of men, women, and children streamed into the maze of stalls offering detergent, strained yogurt and instant coffee, among other goods.
Umm Mohammad, a 50-year-old shopper, peered at the price tag on a can of processed meat before putting it back on the shelf. She sported a full-body black robe and face veil and was already carrying bags weighed down with food. “I’m going to rush home to my children after buying them butter and halawa,” she said, referring to a crumbly, sesame-based sweet.
The goods at the market cost just a fraction of what they did months ago when a five-year siege made food, medicine, and other basic goods either hard to find or too expensive.
As the stocks at storefronts dwindled over the years, Ghouta’s 400,000 residents were left relying on rare deliveries of humanitarian aid or products smuggled in through tunnels.
“I haven’t seen this in years,” said Hassan Saryoul, a 42-year-old resident, holding up a box of paper napkins.
“Napkins were like drugs — virtually banned. A kilo of sugar cost 22,000 Syrian pounds (around $50) but now it’s around 500 pounds,” he told AFP.
He was already carrying bags in both hands and struggling to maneuver around the masses of shoppers: “If I could carry even more things, I would have.”
Ghouta fell to opposition groups in 2012 and was placed under a crippling siege the following year. With help from its ally Russia, the Syrian regime recaptured Ghouta one month ago through a blend of military pressure and population transfer deals.
Just outside the market, Douma remains devastated, with mangled cars rusting outside crumbling buildings and rubble still littering the dusty streets.