Quotes: MENA   Enter Symbol: NewsLetter: Search: advanced

Bikes big hit in checkpoint-strewn Syria capital  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - AFP - 04/12/2013
No. of Ratings : 0
Add to Mixx!

(MENAFN - AFP) Damascus bike shop owner Ali Jumaa is a happy man despite the civil war raging across Syria: with checkpoint-weary locals in the capital increasingly swapping their cars for bicycles, business has never been better.

"Bike sales are exploding," he said with a big smile.

Young Damascenes especially have turned to bikes en masse to avoid the endless traffic jams caused by hundreds of army checkpoints.

Two and a half years into Syria's brutal war, the economy has taken a beating, with inflation soaring at 68 percent and scores of businessmen leaving the country.

While the conflict has caused heavy losses for most businesses in Damascus, Jumaa, a trader in his 40s, is among the lucky ones.

It's hard to miss his store, which sells bicycles of all types and colours as well as carrying out repairs.

"We have regular clients," said Jumaa, while repairing a bicycle in front of his shop on Khaled bin Walid Street.

"Young women, including university professors, use bicycles to get around," he said.

Syria is a conservative Muslim country and women on bicycles used to be a rare sight.

But for months now, residents say driving in Damascus has turned into a nightmare because of the multitude of army checkpoints which have popped up across the city, with troops inspecting every passing car.

More than half the capital's streets have been shut down, leading to traffic jams which can paralyse the capital's roads for hours on end.

The aim of the checkpoints is to protect the capital from bomb attacks and to stop weapons and explosive-laden cars from slipping in.

The drastic security measures and the congestion they cause have encouraged people to use bicycles, whereas just a few months ago only delivery men and newspaper distributors could be seen using them.

Mohammad Sabbagh, an engineering student, is thrilled at having taken to two wheels.

"I get to university in 20 minutes, while it used to take me one or two hours (by bus), depending on the traffic," said Sabbagh, parking his bike.

"I can do whatever I want with my time now, as I don't have to wait for the bus any more," he smiled.

Manar Masri, also a student, said he took up cycling after he stumbled on a Facebook page named "We need a bike."

"It's wonderful that all these people, especially young girls, want to cycle," he said.

Even some religious figures have joined in.

Mohammed Ali Malla, a cleric at Leila Basha mosque, said on the group's Facebook page: "To navigate the streets of Damascus, our only option is bicycles."

Another social media user wrote: "When I'm stuck at a checkpoint and I see 32 bicycles in front of me, I think to myself, I really need a bike.'"

Breaking taboos

Some have grown so tired of the traffic that they make jokes about it. "Life is too short to spend on a bus," wrote another Facebook user.

In Damascus, an average bicycle costs about 400 Syrian pounds (30), with most of them imported from China.

Some residents also see bicycles as a way of saving money on fuel, which has grown scarce as fighting has cut off supply routes across Syria.

Fadia is upset so much of her salary goes on petrol.

Buying a bicycle "would be the ideal solution," she said, as the price of fuel has nearly doubled in two years.

The Facebook campaign encourages women like Fadia to abandon their cars.

"Women feel embarrassed to ride a bike, but we need to break all those taboos... even if that seems unusual in our conservative society," one post reads.

But not everyone supports the idea.

A street seller grumbled as he watched a young woman riding through the Shaalan commercial district. "Now we've seen it all!" he called out.



  MENA News Headlines
 Oct 9 2015 - Qatar- QSE falls 34 points, bullish phase continuesGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Qatar Stock Exchange failed to surpass the 11,800 mark as its key index lost 34 points, after being in a bullish phase for the last three consecutive sessions.Consumer goods, ...

 Oct 9 2015 - Saudi said to order spend curbs amid oil price slumpGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Saudi Arabia is ordering a series of cost-cutting measures as the slide in oil prices weighs on the kingdom's budget, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.The ...

 Oct 9 2015 - KSA- SABB Q3 profit rises 7.7% to $304mnGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Saudi British Bank (SABB), the kingdom's fifth-largest bank by assets, posted a 7.7% rise in third-quarter net profit yesterday, in line with analyst forecasts. The bank, an ...

 Oct 9 2015 - Qatar wealth fund said interested in Glencore agriculture unit saleGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) The sovereign wealth fund of Qatar has joined investors expressing an interest in buying a minority stake in Glencore's agriculture business, according to three people familiar ...

 Oct 9 2015 - Almost 300 Europe-bound migrants arrested in LibyaGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Libyan authorities said almost 300 migrants, a third of them from Senegal, were arrested Thursday as they prepared to board boats for the Mediterranean crossing to Europe."After ...

 Oct 9 2015 - Netanyahu moves to lower tensions over holy siteGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has banned Israeli cabinet ministers and legislators from visiting a sensitive Jerusalem holy site where rising tensions have spilled over into ...

 Oct 9 2015 - France carries out fresh strikes against IS in SyriaGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) France said on Friday it had carried out a second wave of strikes overnight on Islamic State targets in Syria and accused Russia of failing to target the group."Two Rafale jets ...

 Oct 9 2015 - UN envoy proposes Libya unity governmentGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) UN envoy Bernardino Leon proposed a Libyan unity government on Friday aimed at ending years of conflict, but the plan was quickly dismissed by members of the country's two rival ...

 Oct 9 2015 - Tunisian dialogue mediators win Nobel Peace PrizeGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for building democracy in the country after the 2011 revolution which unleashed the Arab Spring.The award ...

 Oct 9 2015 - Four Arabs stabbed in southern Israel, Jewish suspect heldGulf Times
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Four Arabs were stabbed in a town in southern Israel on Friday and a Jewish suspect was arrested, police said. The attacks follow a surge in knife violence by Palestinians ...




Click to Apply


Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

MENAFN News Market Data Countries Tools Section  

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

Main News
News By Industry
News By Country

Islamic Finance News
Private Equity News

How-To Guides
Technology Section

Travel Section

Search News

Market Indices
Quotes & Charts

Global Indices
Arab Indices


Oil & Energy

Currencies Cross Rates
Currencies Updates
Currency Converter

USA Stocks
Arab Stocks

Saudi Arabia 

Economic Calendar
Financial Glossary

Financial Calculators

RSS Feeds [XML]

Corporate Monitor


Real Estate
Submit Your Property

Arab Research
Buy a Research

Press Releases
Submit your PR

Join Newsletters

© 2014 menafn.com All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Advertise | About MENAFN | Career Opportunities | Feedback | Help