Syria refugees in Jordan do deals in desertAgence France-Presse . Zaatari Refugee Camp
A booming market selling goods from spices to electronics has sprouted in a desolate desert camp where Syrian refugees are trying to survive the war tearing their country apart.
In the seven-square-kilometre Zaatari camp, many of the more than 62,000 Syrian refugees, who live on charity handouts and meagre savings, have turned their tents into restaurants, bakeries, groceries and barber shops.
Other refugees sell mobile phones, satellite receivers and clothes, braving tough living conditions but breathing new life into the six-month-old desert camp, 15 kilometres from the kingdom’s northern city of Mafraq.
‘My friend was the first to turn a tent into a coffee shop months ago. I bought it from him for 270 dinars ($380) when he returned to Syria,’ Mohammad, 28, said, as he served his customers.
‘People come here to smoke water pipes and drink coffee and tea, trying to kill time and forget their misery. At the same time I make some money. It is not bad, thank God.’
Some shops in Zaatari carry names like ‘The Revolution’ and ‘Freedom,’ inspired by Syria’s anti-regime uprising which started in March 2011 and has killed at least 60,000 people, according to UN figures.
‘Today I am selling vegetables. Sometimes I sell fruit,’ Wael Jaber, 26, said as he sat in his tent near crates of tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and onions.
‘I had to do something to spend my time and earn some money. Nobody likes to live in this miserable place, but there was no other choice. I could not just sit and wait for the unknown,’ said Jaber, who fled his village south of Damascus two months ago.
Since it opened in July, Zaatari has seen several protests by refugees against poor living conditions, including a lack of electricity.
But such conditions do not prevent children from working to support their families.
‘I sell smuggled cigarettes from Syria,’ Diab, 12, said as he carried a box full of various brands.
‘I stopped going to school because it was useless. My father doesn’t work and I want to make money. Today I have earned 1,000 Syrian pounds ($14),’ said the boy, adding that his 16-year-old bother also works in the same business.
Diab’s friend Ahmad sells mobile phone top-up cards.
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