Long-forgotten professions re-emerge amidst wartime realities


October 29, 2015

One side effect of the Syrian civil war plunging the country far back in time in terms of standard of living and development has been the reemergence of long-forgotten professions.

The fuel-seller and the babur-maker, a small kerosene stove used for cooking, have are showing up around Syria, professions that had been phased out when gas stations arrived decades ago. The reason? “Because of electricity cutoffs and the lack of gas, which is costly when it is available,” Ibrahim a-Shamali, correspondent with Idlib’s pro-opposition Umayya Media Center, tells Syria Direct’s Noura Hourani.

Q: What are some of the most widespread professions that were around long ago and have now resurfaced?

“There a number of them, but the most widespread today would be the return of the babur maker [a small kerosene stove used in the 60’s]. This profession has resurfaced today, and in force, because of electricity cutoffs and the lack of gas, which is costly when it is available. Now 80 percent of people use the babur, because it works like it’s supposed to and is cheap. Some individuals have opened up shops for bawabir [the plural form of babur] making.

Other crafts that have resurfaced include fuel selling. Fuel-sellers were very much present in the previous century before the advent of gas stations, and today when you walk through the city every 500 meters or so you’ll find a small shop with different types of fuel—gas, diesel, kerosene and others.”

Q: How has the return of these professions affected people where you live in Idlib?

“It has been a source of relief for a lot of people who lost their work and income. It’s become the sole alternative source of income for a good number of people.

Some have begun to change their shops into babur building and selling shops because of the large demand for bawabir. As for selling fuels, that has pushed a number of people to buy large water tanks and trucks to move and trade in fuels, because it’s a lucrative business and available in wartime.”

Q: You mentioned that people have resorted to using the babur because fuels aren’t available—at the same time, the fuel trade has flourished. Where are people getting fuel?

“Traders bring in fuel from areas under Islamic State control. The only road [available for that purpose] is from A-Raqqa to Aleppo city, and from there people buy fuels and resell it.

The fuels are not of desired quality, since they bring in unrefined oil and then work to refine it with primitive methods that end up producing gas unsuitable for use in cars, but good for other types of machinery.

As an aside, this has also become a type of profession for people: refining oil. People purchase oil, refine it, sell it and profit.”

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