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Damascus Cafes Transform into Essential Work and Study Hubs Amid Electricity Crisis

The dire electricity shortages, exacerbated by a 13-year-long conflict, have severely impacted Syria's energy sector, al-Souria Net.
Damascus Cafes Transform into Essential Work and Study Hubs Amid Electricity Crisis

In the heart of Damascus, amidst a persistent electricity crisis, cafes have evolved into crucial work and study zones. For over a year, Majda, a 42-year-old advertising designer, has found her second office in one of these central cafes. With constant electricity, it’s where she dives into her creative process, conducts meetings, and finds inspiration among the café’s patrons. Majda, who prefers to keep her surname private, shared with Agence France-Presse the vital role these establishments play in her professional life, especially with the power outages disrupting work from home.

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Majda’s workstation is a vibrant sofa within the café, surrounded by her design tools and occasionally distracted by Lily, a friendly white dog that roams the café. The café has not only become a workspace for Majda but also a place where she has formed bonds with the staff, even helping out with tasks like serving coffee or rearranging furniture.

The dire electricity shortages, exacerbated by a 13-year-long conflict, have severely impacted Syria’s energy sector. This situation has led to extensive power rationings, sometimes lasting up to 20 hours. The conflict has resulted in the loss of key oil and gas fields and damage to infrastructure, with the Syrian government attributing part of the crisis to Western economic sanctions which hinder oil shipments to Syria.

To accommodate the growing number of patrons seeking a reliable place to work and study, café owners like Ihsan Al-Azma have reimagined their spaces. Al-Azma, who opened his café three years ago with the vision of supporting young professionals and students, has adapted the café’s layout to include school-like desks and increased the number of electrical outlets to meet the demand for charging electronic devices.

Al-Azma, aged 38, also shared his personal challenges with electricity and transportation, revealing that he often opts to sleep in the café to avoid these issues. “Cafes in Damascus now represent a sanctuary from three prevailing crises: electricity, internet, and heating,” he commented.

The electricity and fuel shortages have sparked widespread criticism, with authorities acknowledging over $100 billion in losses to the energy sector due to the conflict and sanctions. Despite the difficulties, cafes like the one in the Bab Touma area, once known for its nightlife, have transformed into quiet study spaces where students like 18-year-old George Kassari find essential services like internet and electricity for their studies.

Similarly, 22-year-old Muhammad Sabahi, who works remotely for a Gulf company, relies on his café workspace for daily business meetings and to keep his electronic devices charged. The café culture has become a lifeline for many, including medical student Shadi Elias, who, despite preferring home study, resorts to cafes to continue his studies during power outages.

Damascus cafes, amidst these challenging times, have become more than just places to enjoy a drink; they are vital hubs for work, study, and community support, illustrating the city’s resilience and adaptability.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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