Entertainment in eastern region turns unaffordable bill

Families in the northeastern city of Qamishli strolling in the public park - March 6, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Majd al-Salem)

Families in the northeastern city of Qamishli strolling in the public park - March 6, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Majd al-Salem)


Al-Hasakah – Majd al-Salem

“Going out on a trip with your family and escaping from the pressure of the city and work is no longer just an entertainment thing, it has become a necessity,” the 39-year-old Farouk al-Khlaif expresses his awareness of the importance of taking a trip with his family in the northeastern city of Qamishli.

“The terrifying atmosphere and anxiety that our children lived through and still are, because of the recent earthquake, necessitates it,” he added.

Al-Khlaif explained to Enab Baladi that being a low-income person makes his life limited to “struggling to secure the family’s needs, including food, drink, housing, education, etc.,” due to the deterioration of the value of the Syrian pound against the dollar on the one hand, and the high cost of living and “unending” expenses on the other.

Al-Khlaif works as an employee in a service institution, with a monthly salary that does not exceed 140,000 Syrian pounds (about $18).

The exchange rate of the dollar, according to the S-P Today website, which monitors the exchange rate of the pound against foreign currencies, reached 7,650 pounds to $1 dollar.

Al-Khlaif’s financial income covers the expenses only for a few days of the month, and if he thinks of going on a family outing with the least “preparations,” the matter will cost him about 300,000 pounds.

The prices of goods and services have risen in the areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), affecting the lifestyle of poor families with limited incomes.

Some foodstuffs are related to the atmosphere and rituals of family trips, such as red and white meat, from which various types of barbecues are prepared. However, their high prices prevented many residents from bringing them on their trips, and they were also absent from their tables at home.

Enab Baladi carried out a tour in the Qamishli market to monitor the prices of the most important commodities that families need to prepare for a trip.

The price of one kilogram of red meat reached about 40,000 Syrian pounds in the al-Jazzareen (Butchers) market, noting that most families need more than one kilogram for a trip.

The price of a kilogram of live chicken reached 14,000 pounds, meaning that the average price of one whole chicken weighing two kilograms is about 25,000 pounds.

As for vegetables and fruits, the price of one kilogram of apples was 4000 pounds, bananas 7,000, Oranges 3,000, and Strawberries 10,000.

As for nuts, the price of a kilogram of peanuts amounted to about 20,000 pounds, and the black sunflower seeds amounted to about 25,000 pounds.

With the costs of basic necessities such as food, housing, and transportation steadily rising, many families find it difficult to allocate a portion of the funds for recreational activities.

Public parks, inexpensive solution

The most famous sites that the residents of the city of Qamishli visit are tens of kilometers away, such as Ain Diwan, Mezkift, and Sweidek, and going to them requires the family to rent private transportation that costs about 100,000 Syrian pounds.

Qamishli-based Thamer Mohamad, 32, believes that the best solution for him is to take his family every weekend to public parks, even if these parks are not “ideally” equipped and there are no green spaces in good condition or children’s games. It remains “better than staying within four walls,” as he said.

Mohamad resorts to the park to save “exorbitant costs” for any alternative trip outside the city, and he spends the “picnic” sitting with his wife and two children on one of the public park benches in the city center with several “Falafel sandwiches and a soft drink.”

Other families found the solution in reducing the quantities and types of food and organizing group trips to share and reduce costs for individuals.

Some of the people from the outskirts of the cities and the neighboring fields made it a nearby place for picnicking to save the fare for the means of transportation in order to buy food and drink for their trips.

However, the lack of nearby green spaces makes it difficult to find a place for picnics nearby, and some field owners refuse residents entry to their land for fear of their crops.

Madloul Saeed, 52, the owner of a shop that sells hiking equipment in Qamishli, told Enab Baladi that the demand for buying trekking and camping equipment is currently acceptable, but it will increase with the approach of special occasions for the residents of the region, such as the Newroz holiday.

Saeed, who sells trekking chairs, barbecue stoves, and accessories, added that there are some well-to-do families who spend millions on preparing for their trips, and some residents depend on their children or relatives in the countries of asylum in order to save on the costs of the trips from the money they transfer.

Regarding the prices, Saeed said that the prices of chairs range, according to the origin, between Iranian and Syrian, from 50,000 to 100,000 Syrian pounds, while tents are priced between $50 and $130, depending on the size and quality, while those who wish can buy umbrellas instead of tents at a lower price between $20 and $40.

With the high prices, the AANES formed an economic commission on December 25, 2022, to reformulate the consumer protection law, in line with the economic reality, internal trade, and market movement, with the aim of controlling high prices, according to what was published on the official Facebook page of the economic commission.



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