The flavors of Ramadan in Syria

By Rania Zanoun

Damascus, Apr 27 (EFE).- In the narrow alleys of al-Jazmatiya market in Damascus, the sweet smell of desserts mixed with the wafts of seasonal drinks made from tamarind pods and licorice roots still fills the air during this year’s Ramadan, despite Syria’s precarious security situation.

Some street vendors practice the values of the holy month of fasting by offering their products to the poor without expecting anything in return.

“If you crave it, don’t hesitate to come and take it,” and “Ramadan is the month of generosity,” are among the slogans vendors shout in the market located in the heart of the Syrian capital.

To be able to enjoy a bite and a sip, many families in the war-torn country rely on the Ramadan value of giving, while others choose to prepare the traditional drinks at home in order to save some money.

“Customers used to buy two or more bottles but now, they only buy one for the family,” one juice seller in al-Jazmatiya tells Efe.

“The price difference is big because the cost is high, and that is why we have raised the price of our products,” he says.

Despite the situation, Ramadan’s traditional beverages remain essential on Syrian tables, with al-Jallab, a drink made with dates, rose water, grape molasses and topped with pine nuts or raisins, being the most favorite.

Dried apricot-based qamar al-din juice also holds a special place in Syria because it is believed it originated in the northwestern Ghouta countryside.

The orange, thick and sweet juice is served cold and is known to help prevent headaches and dehydration that sometimes accompany fasting.

“The licorice is one of the most popular drinks in Ramadan (…) we get the dry herb, wrap it in thin gauze fabric and let it sit in water for several hours to ferment,” juice seller Abu Omar explains.

Tamarind is also a staple during Ramadan. It is made from crushed tamarind fruit pods, sugar and sometimes lime juice.

Ramadan drinks, like everything else in the country, have become ever-more expensive after almost 11 years of war, several campaigns of international sanctions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has spiked global food prices.

About 55% of the country’s population is acutely food insecure, including two million people living in camps and totally dependent on humanitarian aid, according to the latest data from the World Food Program (WFP).

Um Fawaz, a 65-year-old consumer, tells Efe that she rarely buys tamarind juice due to its high price, saying she is satisfied with the affordable licorice drinks to keep the Ramadan tradition going.EFE


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