Workers living on outskirts of city are leaving their homes at 500 hrs
Walking has become extremely popular in Syria over the past few months. This is down to serious fuel shortages that have made it impossible to run private vehicles as well as public transport
.The government has failed to meet Syrian demands in light of the crisis.
Transport fares have risen sharply in Syria in general and Damascus and Aleppo in particular: over ten times the official tariff in Damascus and up to 30 times in Aleppo. This has prompted Syrians from various social and cultural backgrounds to abandon vehicles in favour of their own feet.
One university student tells Arabstoday: "I couldn't afford the high fare any more, so I started walking from my house to the university and back. Public transport now costs LS 100, which is around one US dollar, while it used to cost no more than LS 10. With these kinds of figures, I need LS 200 ($2) a day just for transport, which is a lot in terms of my family's income, so I have decided to walk and save money."
Other are seeking alternatives. An office worker named Hussein says: "I went along with the excessive rise in prices at first, but with the new hike, I am now looking for alternatives. The other possibility is to cycle to work but that has proved unworkable. I have solved part of my problem, but the other employees haven't, because even bicycle prices have risen dramatically, almost 15 times higher in some cases."
The suffering of civil servants is even greater, especially as their work day starts at 0800 hrs, requiring them to leave their homes at 0500 hrs to reach their workplaces.
A civil servant called Soad says: "I now wake up at 0400 hrs to get ready and be out of the house by five. As I live outside the city, I have to walk over an hour-and-a-half to get to a place where there is means of transport which I can take to work." She adds: "The biggest problem is that, despite being the cause of the issue, the government doesn't understand the predicament."
Emad, a director at a government authority tells Arabstoday: "Unfortunately, the leadership is ignoring the public in this crisis and the difficulty of getting to work, especially for those who live in the countryside. Being just a few minutes late costs an employee the day's wage, which is sorely needed in light of the inflation we're experiencing. I have a number of employees who leave their homes at five and six in the morning to get to work, and yet some of them arrive late."
One businesswoman says: "I don't move my car from its place any more. At the beginning of the fuel crisis, I had to queue more than ten hours for petrol, but as the crisis worsened, and it became harder to get fuel, I began to buy petrol in the black market at very high cost, up to four times the price. Officially, 20 litres would cost LS 1,100 [around $11] and the price on the black market went up to LS 4,000. So now I only move the car when I absolutely have to. Even public transport is now rare and very expensive. Even if you find a taxi, it would cost a lot of money. A journey that used to cost LS 50 would now set you back LS 400 and sometime 500. So I decided to just stay at home or run errands nearby on foot."
Ahmed, the owner of a food shop says: "I now shop on foot and have to carry my basic supplies for very long distances. There's no petrol in my car and buying it on the black market would cost so much, I would have to raise my prices. So I've decided to shop on foot instead of having to sell my merchandise at high prices to the public who wouldn't be able to afford them to begin with."
This is Damascus. Things are harder and more complicated in Aleppo, where the fuel crisis is accompanied by violent clashes between regime forces and the opposition, compounding the problem. As the crisis bites harder, locals try to lighten the load by joking about the state of affairs.
One person says: "By not supplying the citizen with fuel and prompting him to take up walking, the Syrian government is boosting the citizenry's circulation and budging them towards sport and maintaining a healthy body."
One local says: "It's a chance to get back to tradition and using horse-drawn carriages and riding animals again." Another said: "Sound body, sound mind."
Observers have noted that the repercussions of the fuel crisis cover a wide area, ranging from the increased prices of basic goods and services to the lack of heating, transport difficulty and other problems.