Syria's youth flaunt new wealth
By an IWPR-trained reporter
Under the arcade of the fancy Four Seasons hotel in Damascus, Anas
Mashafej gazes at the windows of Aishti, an up-market clothing shop
that sells designer brands such as Armani and Roberto Cavalli.
A bright - and expensive - shirt attracts the attention of the
22-year-old college student. After some hesitation, he decides to
buy it and postpone buying other items he needs.
"The general atmosphere at college encourages wearing well-known
brands," he said. "Most students brag about their designer
Close to Aishti, in the exclusive Damascus neighborhood of Chaalan,
the streets throng with Western-style cafes and
like Segafredo and Costa, stylish shops and private banks.
The development of such areas, which are frequented by a small
emerging class of well-off Syrians, epitomizes the economic
transformation of Syria in recent years.
officials proclaimed that the country was moving
towards a more market-oriented economy by encouraging competition
and that the Syrian market was opening to foreign goods and
This change gave rise to a class of
Syrian youth, mainly the
children of rich businessmen and officials, who increasingly adopt
Azzam Jamil, 26, helps his father at his printing company. He is
part of the new wave of Syrian youth who drink filtered coffee at
trendy cafes while checking their e-mail on laptops or making travel
plans with their friends.
Jamil, who wears torn jeans and a T-shirt with an image of a skull
on it and has dyed blond hair, said, "I donít feel awkward dressing
this way. All my friends dress the same ... This is how I express
Kids like Jamil attend private universities and spend their free
time in the new malls of Damascus, using restaurants like KFC and
Hardee's as well as an array of amusement centers, modern cinema
theatres, and parking lots where they can show off their expensive
Most of the posh spots are in Kafarsousa, where real estate agents
say that homes can cost up to US$2 million. Other hot spots
reflecting the craze for modern lifestyles include spas, tennis
courts, gymnasiums and nightclubs.
Recently, a group of young rich Syrians started a club to play
American football, considered an exclusive sport in
Damascus has also witnessed in the past few years the opening of
large supermarkets that sell expensive foreign goods and exotic
Observers note that in parallel to the new islands of wealth, the
liberalization of the economy has brought with it a starker contrast
between the standards of living of the rich and the poor, in a
country that once prided itself on having social equality and a
solid welfare system.
In contrast to the new luxurious suburbs, there are more slums
around the city, said Ahmad Nokrosh, a Damascus-based economic
"Liberalization of the economy has impinged on the social reality in
the country," he said, adding that basic services provided by the
state, such as education, transport and health, are getting worse at
the expense of a flourishing private sector that caters to the
He said that even hospitals now have advanced sections reserved for
Zaher Mansour, a 24-year-old law student who makes his living
working as a waiter in the trendy Lina's cafe, said that the
preoccupations of rich young Syrians were very different from those
of the rest of Syrian youth.
"This place feels like Europe, as if you are somewhere in London or
Rome," said Mansour, who comes from a modest background, adding that
the price of a cup of coffee is almost equivalent to what he earns
in a day.
Wealthy youngsters speak about the latest fashion in clothes or new
mobile-phone models while the likes of him worry about inflation,
the increasing price of diesel, or building an additional room onto
the house to accommodate a brother who is getting married, he says.
Hand painted glasses
Syria handcrafted furniture
Bedroom furniture set
Bedroom furniture table
Bedroom furniture chest
Bedroom furniture chairs
Bedroom furniture cabinet
Bedroom furniture dresser
Bedroom chest of drawers
Bedroom furniture armchairs