Skyrocketing prices coupled with a lack of citizens’ purchasing power have left Damascene markets in the doldrums and prevented most locals in the Syrian capital from the traditional conviviality accompanying the advent of Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan.
Touring the Al-Midan neighborhood market, also known as “Al-Jazmatia,” Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the usual features celebrating Ramadan this year had very little presence in what is considered one of the most famous markets in Damascus.
Observing one of the most important holidays in Islam, Al-Jazmatia would typically burst with shoppers, decorations, sales, and special offers put up by retailers. This year, however, the scene is much duller and slower.
Supermarkets, for example, did not bother purchasing additional Ramadan stocks. Instead, they made offers on preexisting supplies.
Moreover, Al-Jazmatia’s typical busy traffic had been reduced to a handful of shoppers, who, when approached by vendors, would only end up buying in small quantities.
The owner of a massive food store confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that most shop owners avoided making traditional preparations this Ramadan. They also did not have additional inventories to offer.
“There will be low demand since people are so financially exhausted, they can barely make ends meet,” said the owner, who preferred to remain anonymous.
The owner pointed to high prices driving customers away. Average salaries, at best, stand at around 150,000 liras, while 250g of butter alone costs a staggering 20,000.
“Look around. There are no people in the market. Shops are empty except for the owners and workers. Scales do not move except rarely,” they said.
“High costs have managed to slaughter both the people and the shopkeepers financially,” said another owner, adding that “since the beginning of the war 12 years ago, the exchange rate of the lira (against the US dollar) has plummeted.”
The two owners complained that the people’s purchasing power had also been demolished with the national currency’s devaluation. This led to demand for purchases taking a nosedive that worsened year-on-year.
“We reached a state of almost complete stagnation,” said the owners.