The anticipation and excitement surrounding Eid [the feast of breaking the fast] is showing already in the city. The streets are teeming with people, the shops are open day and night, and the smell of Eid sweets wafts out of the bakeries. This atmosphere reminded me of the old days, when I used to go with my family to al-Hamidiyya market to buy new clothes for Eid. I suddenly felt that all I wanted was to relive those old moments again, so on a whim, I asked my friends if they wanted to go to the market with me, and they loved the idea. Al-Hamidiyya market used to be full of tourists from all over the world, but because of the war, they have vanished.
We walked around the market and bought some little things. Most of my friends are, like myself, displaced and cannot afford to do any serious shopping. So each of us bought one thing—a pair of shoes, a purse, some perfume. I loved the time that I spent in the market and I enjoyed watching the licorice drink seller in his traditional costume and red hat. We also entered the Umayyad mosque located on the far side of the market. We stayed there for an hour, praying that our country might escape from the misery it is going through. After that, we ate some of the famously delicious ice cream at a shop called Bekdash, then we bought some candy, and I bought a book. I did not find a book that I really liked, but I bought one anyway, because I wanted to continue an old family tradition of ours—we always ended our trip to the market with a new book.
I was very excited, hopping from one shop to another, and my friends followed me wherever I went. I did every little thing that I used to do with my family on our pre-feast trips to al-Hamidiyya market. Reliving this experience provided me with happy energy. For the first time in two years, I felt that I had the inner force to embrace the past. Maybe I am finally able to overcome the negative impact that the war has had on me. Something in me is changing for the better.
We stopped at a checkpoint on our way back, and they detained us for almost two hours. My friends called their parents but, not wanting to worry her, I didn’t call my mother. The officers at the checkpoint conducted a thorough search of everything we’d bought. They were annoyingly slow, and it looked like they were having fun while my friends trembled with fury. At the start, we did not understand why we were being searched, but later we realized that we were stopped and searched because we are from eastern Ghouta [an opposition-controlled area in the suburbs of Damascus]. Sometimes, I wish I could change the place of birth on my identification card, but of course, I can’t—and honestly, I don’t really want to. I am very proud of who I am: a displaced girl from eastern Ghouta.
Strangely enough, what happened did not change my mood. I was still happy and excited when I got home. Have I gotten used to tragedy or have I overcome it? This simple visit to the market gave me strength and reminded me that nothing is impossible—I wanted to live one day of happiness, and I did. After all I have been through, if I can be happy for one full day, then nothing can stop me from being happy all the time. I will realize the peace and happiness that I dream of. I know that I can. ♦
Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis. It was translated from the Arabic by Mais Istanbelli.