Enab Baladi Issue # 86 – Sun, Oct. 13, 2013
The Eid is coming and as usual, every year the markets are crowded with people who are buying clothes. However, today and because of the economic recession and the high prices of the new clothes, we can notice the same crowd but in the markets of secondhand clothes or what is known as “Balah”. Moreover, most people consider the prices of secondhand clothes to be cheaper than the prices of new ones.
Balah is the name of the market for secondhand European clothes that is spread in Eid time and seasonal times in some famous areas in Damascus. These markets provide everything for the family member from “the slipper to the fez” as it said. The quality is good and it is cheaper than the normal markets. Balah market is distinguished from other markets for it can save your money to buy more pieces in an economical price. Therefore, the people of low income can save money from their salary to the end of the month.
There are two kinds of Balah: old and new. The old kinds, almost used, are found on the stalls in an unorganized form and in cheap prices. However, most customers may not buy these kinds. The new kinds, relatively old models, are found in special stores that sell this kind of Balah such as Harika markets, Bab Al Jabia and Al kanawat. A lot of people buy this kind for its good qualities and its reasonable prices. Some of them have famous brand names and some are new styles.
Before the crisis, many Syrian people went to these markets secretly because they were afraid of the society where people are proud of their clothes. Today, these markets are famous since most Syrian are unable to buy new clothes. Therefore, poor and rich people started buying these goods.
Asma’, a student at the School of Architecture, who goes to these markets sometimes, says that the high prices of new clothes are the main reason for the spread of these markets and for the increase of their popularity. Moreover, the price of pajamas for children at Hamidieh, a popular market, is 1600 Syrian pound and that is a wholesale price. Nevertheless, the price of a skirt at the same market is between 2500 and 3000 Syrian pound. However, you can buy similar pieces from Balah, where prices range between 500 and 1000 Syrian pound.
Balah trade is considered an illegitimate trade in Syria; for the country does not allow the import of Balah because it is not good for national trade and for “health” reasons. Balah traders smuggle their goods via drivers who travel to Jordan and Lebanon because these countries allow the import of Balah from the original countries. Then, they distribute them to the stores and stalls in Syrian cities.
In a declaration for Bladna newspaper which supports the regime, the chairman of the consumer protection association, Adnan Dakhakhini, says: “when we will allow the import of Balah regularly, the clothes’ prices crisis will be solved completely. At that time, you will find new or locally made clothes and you will also find clothes for daily usage at Balah and that will not damage our national goods at all. However, Balah can be considered as a parallel for trade and a complementary for citizen needs.”
Because of the semi-complete absence of the institutions that are responsible for controlling the prices in the market, the war circumstances imposed on them, Syrian citizens became obliged to take into consideration the disturbance of the economical situation that forms a direct threat to their future especially after hearing the same answer, “the dollar is up”, from all the sellers every time they object on the high prices.