The Guardian reports: Yasser sits in the dark in his clothes shop in Damascus’s Old City, listening to the whirr of generators outside – a sound that was alien to Syria until recently. Usually his shop is packed with friends and customers, but Yasser, wrapped in a fleece and scarf, sits alone. “Trade is down and the price of everything is going up,” he says dejectedly.
The middle-aged father of five has teabags but no sugar, and last week he could not afford gas to refill the small canister that heats his kettle. “Sugar has become five times more expensive and I’ve had to change to smoking terrible cigarettes,” he says with a wry smile. On the way home from work the day before, he gave in to an ache to treat his family and bought a roast chicken – something that he used to do weekly – so now all his money is gone. “Tell me, how do I survive,” he says.
The mood in central Damascus has moved in peaks and troughs since the start of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad. The suburbs and towns that ring the capital have long been up in arms, and trouble inches ever closer to the seat of power. But life in the city is different to that in places such as Homs or Idleb, which are caught in a cycle of protests, armed rebel activity and regime crackdown.
On a sunny day, people wander the cracked streets, peering at new DVDs. The wealthy are back in the upmarket cafes sipping $4 lattes – at least for now. Against the background of a crisis that has put lives on hold, Damascenes are trying to find new routine.