Homs Heritage Markets are Reviving Again

In the past, the markets of Homs were not merely shops for selling goods, but they were forums for the discussion of people's daily life and other social activities. But during the war years, armed terrorist groups tried to obliterate the markets in an attempt to wipe out the memory of this city through the acts of sabotage and destruction that affected those markets, including the covered market «Souk al-Maqbi», which is the largest and oldest market in Homs and one of the archaeological landmarks of ancient Homs. It housed many small markets forming the so-called covered market. Most of these markets are known for the professions practiced therein.

Souk al-Maqbi, with its markets, represents the economic life in Homs. Before the war, this market was crowded with people who used to tour the market in order to buy distinctive special goods that they used to find only in Souk al-Maqbi. Despite all the brutal crimes and systematic sabotage carried out by terrorist groups, people still have a strong will to revive this market, which symbolizes the ancient history of Homs.

Shopping festivals

Abu Ahmed, the owner of a store in the market said: "I was happy to reopen my shop again and I did my best to convince and encourage many merchants to reopen their shops, despite the lack purchasing power at that time.  We were sure that Homs would return better than it was before the war".

The owner of a children's clothing store said: "After the return of security and safety in Homs, many concerned parties sought to restore life to various service sectors and  to the "covered market " as well through holding shopping festivals where various types of goods needed by the citizen at encouraging prices, especially in school seasons and holidays were displayed, stressing, the real  desire of the traders and shop owners to reopen their shops in the market.

Concerted efforts

Owner of a shop said: "The covered market reflects our popular heritage that we are proud of. The efforts excreted by the concerned parties in cooperation with UNDP to restore life to this market, as well as our sense of security and safety, were the main motivation for our determination to return despite the losses we suffered". In his view, it is necessary to reactivate the rest of the markets in the city, which, in turn, motivates people, especially the rural people to shop from the market since they find all their requirements in suitable prices.

People stressed that they trust the quality and price of goods offered there, compared to the quality and prices in the shops of the other markets.

Work in stages

Baha Khouzam, the project manager, said that the UNDP in Homs was keen to rehabilitate and rebuild the roofed market in Homs. In 2014, the site was inspected, and studies were set to coordinate the work with the other trusteeships and the technical committee formed for this purpose.

He added: "The program began work in early 2015 by removing the rubble from the archaeological markets, including 850 commercial shops with an area of 42000 square meters, to start the restoration work".

Infrastructure rehabilitation

Reem Baalbaki, Director of the Decision Support Directorate in Homs Governorate, said: "The archeological markets include 810 shops divided into four stages «spatial sectors» in order to be rehabilitated and restored according to the document of understanding with the United Nations Development Program.

Each phase provides for the rehabilitation of all infrastructure networks and the removal of the old roof and erecting of the new arched roof with transparent coverage and to make standard doors for shops and wooden fascias   in addition to securing solar lighting.

The first and second stages have been completed by 100% and the necessary technical studies have been prepared for the fourth stage.

As for the accomplished works , she says: " Among the accomplished works are the rehabilitation of the shops is the first priority, and then about 631 shops, including the construction of the collapsed parts in 25 stores,  restoration of the damaged shops' facades for 65 shops, making new metal windows above the shops, installation of solar lighting system, lighting of 15 thousand square meters, installation of 295 lighting devices and putting them into investment, in addition to the rehabilitation of sewage and water network.

Special services

Engineer Mohammed Rasmi Al-Sibai, a member of Homs City Council, explained that the rehabilitation and restoration work in the markets of the city center, which was carried out in cooperation with the governorate of Homs and the UNDP, ended by providing special services for these markets, such as the removal of the debris and adopting a single model of shops, this appears clearly in the new stores opened in these markets and shop owners can stay longer in their shops.

Abdul Nasser Sheikh Fattouh, President of Homs Chamber of Commerce, said that  a set of procedures were taken to encourage  shop owners to reopen their shops again, such as providing income-generating equipment for sewing workshops and distributing equipment to 130 shops in the old vegetable market street, stressing that 130 stores will be provided with “small workshops” with their equipment as part of the next plan after the completion of the electricity works.

Initiative

Eng. Sibai pointed out that the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East of the Greek Orthodox - Dept. of Ecumenical Relations has taken a major positive role in activating the city's markets by allocating money for the rehabilitation of 25 shops in the very near future through special workshops in the Patriarchate as promised by the Patriarchate. The success of this experiment in the rehabilitation of 400 similar shops, through the allocation of 500 thousand S.P for the rehabilitation of each shop and through the workshops of the Patriarchate.

Finally

The covered market "Souk al-Maqbi " will remain the living memory of the people of Homs. The global war waged against us and the destruction practiced by terrorist groups to wipe out this memory has failed. Homs, as the other Syrian cities, will revive with the will of its people and their confidence in the heroes of the Syrian Arab Army.

 

Amal Farhat-Homs