By Firas Makdesi and Kinda Makieh
Damascus – Syria’s traditional bathhouses once drew in customers seeking to relax in their leisure time.
Now some families head there out of necessity, fed up with taking a cold shower at home because frequent power cuts after a decade of conflict mean their electric heaters don’t work.
“We hardly have electricity. If it is connected for an hour, the water barely gets warm. We are 10 people at home. We do not get our turn. The situation is really bad,” said Hadi, a shopkeeper enjoying the steam of a Damascus bathhouse.
Drying his child in a towel, restaurant owner Ahmad said: “We come for fun, to take a bath and enjoy it, and also because there is no electricity. What can we do?”
Blackouts, even in the capital which is better served than many regions of Syria, can often run for more than 20 hours a day, longer than even some of the worst periods of the conflict.
Bassam Kubab, the owner of a public bath in a Damascus market, said it wasn’t just power shortages driving people to his establishment – some people also faced water supply cuts.
“The turnout slightly increased in the past two months because of lack of fuel, electricity and – in some areas – water,” he said.
Few people can afford the cost of private diesel generators or the solar panels the government wants citizens to install.
Government statistics show as much as 60% of Syria’s power infrastructure was damaged since 2011, when protests erupted against President Bashar al-Assad and swiftly descended into all-out war.