Daraa: Low turnout for swimming pools despite heatwave

Weak turnout at swimming pools in Daraa city, southern Syria - June 12, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Halim Muhammad)

Weak turnout at swimming pools in Daraa city, southern Syria - June 12, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Halim Muhammad)

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Daraa – Halim Muhammad

The turnout at the private pools in Daraa province, southern Syria, remains weak compared to 2023. According to testimonies from pool owners in the province, the number of visitors has decreased.

This decline is unexpected amidst rising temperatures in Daraa, where numerous private pools relying on wells for water supply used to attract many visitors in previous years after the drying up of water surfaces in the province.

Decline in visitors, High costs

Ahmed Abu al-Wafa, a pool owner in eastern rural Daraa, told Enab Baladi that the attendance at his pool remains weak compared to previous summers. He added that in 2023, he limited the swimming ticket to two hours only, but this year he left the swimming period open at 15,000 Syrian pounds, due to the low number of visitors and to encourage entry to his pool.

He added that the majority of his pool’s users are children, with a noticeable absence of young people, linking the reason to migration, which has left the region lacking this demographic. Additionally, poverty and unemployment, and considering swimming a recreational activity that can be dispensed with, contribute to the decline.

The pool owner sees the project as a loss amid the decline in visitors, estimating the daily number at 50 visitors, reaching 150 on official and weekly holidays, whereas the number was double last summer.

Abu al-Wafa continued that there are high financial costs. The well supplying his pool operates on diesel, which has seen a price increase since the beginning of June, reaching 18,000 Syrian pounds per liter. Operating the diesel engine costs 250,000 Syrian pounds per hour, plus the maintenance costs of the engine and metal oil, which costs 55,000 Syrian pounds per liter, in addition to water chlorination costs.

Enab Baladi inquired from other pool owners in Daraa about the visiting rates, and they confirmed the weak turnout compared to last year.

Migration and poverty

Young men in Daraa usually go to pools in groups during summer, as noted by Hussein (25 years old) from the town of Tel Shihab. He said that he used to go to a private pool with a group of his friends almost once a week during the summer of 2023, in the town of Jileen or the city of Tafas, but they have only gone once this summer.

Hussein added that the financial situation has pushed his friends to refrain from swimming, in addition to the high cost of gasoline, as they use motorcycles for a round trip of about 20 kilometers.

A motorcycle needs a liter of gasoline, which costs 28,000 Syrian pounds, to cover the distance. This is in addition to the entrance fee of 15,000 Syrian pounds per person and a motorcycle insurance fee of 2,000 Syrian pounds.

The pool owner prohibits the introduction of soft drinks or food and imposes buying them from the shop (rest area) within the pool premises, at double the market prices.

Meanwhile, Zuhair (30 years old) from the town of Muzayrib, said that he used to rent a bus (service) with his friends for a whole day at the pool, but most of his friends have migrated in recent years, pointing out that he is now focusing on providing for his family’s needs.

Although the young man loves swimming with his friends, he has given it up, as he said, due to his deteriorating living conditions, which force him to economize.

The wages of daily workers in Daraa are 5,000 Syrian pounds (33 US cents) per hour of work, with the agricultural sector employing the majority of workers.

Currently, residents are frequenting Lake al-Ash’ari at the bottom of Yarmouk Valley, as it is the only natural place where one can swim, and it is crowded with visitors due to its refreshing running waters that are not treated with chemicals.

After the drying up of major water surfaces in western Daraa countryside, such as Lake Muzayrib, Lake Zayzoun, and Ain al-Abd, these places are no longer destinations for swimming or picnicking, as these surfaces dry up in summer and return in winter, depriving residents of swimming opportunities.

 

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