Displaced Syrians long for winter rituals in Idlib

A Syrian woman uses nylon bags and old clothes for heating inside her tent in Idlib - December 12, 2023 (OCHA/Bilal al-Hamoud)

A Syrian woman uses nylon bags and old clothes for heating inside her tent in Idlib - December 12, 2023 (OCHA/Bilal al-Hamoud)


In the evenings, Ali al-Muslimani’s family gathers around the heater, as he tells his children about the beautiful days in al-Ghouta, Damascus, and his yearning for the winter rituals he was accustomed to. Those were days when his family would come together in their home before being displaced by the regime forces to northern Syria in 2017.

Al-Muslimani (42 years old) told Enab Baladi that he misses most of the winter habits and recalls when his family would plant fava beans and yellow corn in their private garden next to their home in al-Ghouta, not for selling but for storing for the wintertime and serving during family evening gatherings.

Additionally, al-Muslimani mentioned that the cold winter forces people to stay at home, pointing out that the winter evening gatherings around the heater form a sort of self-entertainment and distraction for the children, despite the pressures of life.

Ali longs for those evening gatherings with the associated rituals of tales and foods, which he now lacks in northern Syria, home to 2.9 million displaced people, whether in camps or in cramped residential apartments.

The displaced in Idlib miss the evening entertainment rituals they were used to, as well as hot drinks and foods like boiled fava beans, boiled or roasted corn, chestnuts, and sweet potatoes. They cannot grow these crops anymore after being displaced, and their poor financial capabilities prevent them from purchasing them.

Mazen al-Jaber (45 years old), displaced from Daraa and residing in Idlib, told Enab Baladi that he never felt the burden of providing such food that was always abundant in the house because his family depended on growing different crops on their own land.

He recalled how his family would plant sweet potatoes and store quantities exceeding their needs, distributing the rest to relatives and neighbors. He could not imagine winter evenings without placing some sweet potatoes inside the heater and enjoying their sweet taste after roasting.

The reduced purchasing power and increased burdens of life prevent the displaced or even the locals from buying these comforts. The price of dried fava beans in Idlib reaches 50 Turkish liras per kilogram, while the average wage for workers at best is 100 Turkish liras (the US dollar equals 31.5 Turkish liras).

Winter drinks absent

Cinnamon and salep are among the hot beverages that Syrians have been accustomed to consuming in winter, as they raise body temperature and help to combat the harsh cold. But the cost of preparing these drinks has deprived some families of them.

Heba Othman (36 years old), a housewife displaced from the countryside of Damascus and residing in Idlib, told Enab Baladi that cinnamon and salep are the main drinks she used to prepare during wintertime, as they are loved by the young and old alike. However, preparing these drinks has become financially burdensome for the family.

The cost of preparing a salep drink for a family of five members reaches 70 Turkish liras, which makes it unaffordable in the face of the family’s list of priorities in Idlib.

Northwest Syria is home to 4.5 million people, 4.1 million of whom need assistance, and 3.3 million suffer from food insecurity, including 2.9 million internally displaced persons, and two million living in camps, according to the United Nations, while local statistics indicate that there are 5.5 to 6 million people.


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