Electrical fire ‘partially destroys’ UNESCO World Heritage site in Damascus

Just next to Souq Hamidiyeh in Damascus and behind the Ummayed Mosque sits the Al-Asruniyeh market. It is the smaller, less-touristy offshoot of Hamidiyeh, where Syrians go to buy a new sobia (kerosene-based heater), stove pipes or other larger appliances and supplies for the home. What may have began as an electrical fire grew exponentially on Saturday, as a fire raged for two hours and destroyed dozens of 100-year-old shops until firefighters equipped with over 75 trucks finally put it out.

One of the shops scorched in the market fire was Muhammad al-Maidani’s home-appliance shop that he inherited from his father.

With nearly $20,000 in damage and no insurance, al-Maidani tells Syria Direct’s Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim and Maher al-Hamdan that he will likely rebuild it.

“I am considering refurbishing it since it is my only livelihood and it is my profession, which I inherited from my father.”

Q: Can you tell us what happened during the fire? Were there people who tried to put it out?

Other shop owners told me that the Civil Defense said an electrical problem caused the fire. Since most of the stores had flammable merchandise, the fire spread quickly and engulfed the market.

 Firefighters used over 75 fire trucks to put out the fire. Photo courtesy of Damascus Mortar Diaries

Q: Describe the damage to your store. Do you intend to refurbish it or are you going to just sell it? What did you sell there?

My store is medium in size and contains household and electrical appliances. I employ several workers. The store, along with all of the merchandise, was completely burned, with the damage costing more than SP4,000,000 (approximately $18,200).

Now, I am considering refurbishing it since it is my only livelihood and it is my profession, which I inherited from my father. The store is more than 100 years old. Of course I won’t sell it. Even if I left it as it is and didn’t rebuild it, I wouldn’t sell it since it is from my father.

Currently I am talking with companies that I communicated with before to provide me with new merchandise for the store.

Q: Will the government compensate you for the damage? Won’t insurance companies partially compensate you?

No one has told us anything about compensation. I don’t believe that the government will compensate us for our losses despite their inefficiency while putting out the fire and getting there late. If it weren’t for that, the damage would have been less.

I am not registered with any insurance company but my financial situation will allow me to rebuild the store. But a lot of my friends unfortunately can’t afford to renovate their stores. Their shops didn’t make them wealthy, but they were able to live simply off them.

 

Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim

Mohammad is from Amouda in Hasakah province. He moved to Jordan in 2004. Mohammad started work with the Syrian Revolution LCC in Amman by doing reporting and coordinating protests. After that he did volunteer work for refugees in Amman.

Maher al-Hamdan

Maher comes from Outer Damascus. He is currently a political science student at Asia Virtual University in Malaysia. During the conflict, Maher worked with different local coordination offices in Outer Damascus. He moved to Jordan in June 2015. He joined Syria Direct to professionalize his journalism skills.

Samuel Kieke

Samuel Kieke was a 2014-2015 CASA I fellow in Amman, Jordan. He received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin in Arabic Language and Literature, Middle Eastern Studies, and International Relations and Global Studies.