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Syrian farmer happy to make traditional sweet after years of war

Damascus on June 9, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

Syrian farmer Muhammad Jaweesh is busy nowadays as it is the harvest season of apricot from which he makes the traditional Qamar al-Din sweet in the eastern countryside of the capital Damascus.

The 50-year-old man wakes up early in the morning, savoring his hot tea and having a quick bite of breakfast before heading to the farm to meet with other farmers and workers to collect the golden sweet fruit.

In the same area, the man has a small factory for washing, squeezing, and making apricot juice that is spread on wooden boards to dry for five days and then taken to be cut into sheets and get packed.

The final shape is golden sheets of dried apricot paste, which is called Qamar al-Din. The name Qamar means moon and the myth has it that this sweet was named after the man who first made it hundreds of years ago.

Jaweesh feels that he is among the lucky ones to make Qamar al-Din as the sweet is believed to be originated in Syria, particularly in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of the capital Damascus, where Jaweesh is currently working.

"We have inherited this job from our grandfathers and fathers and hopefully we could pass it to our children and grandchildren. This is a very old profession and Syria is the most famous of this profession for hundreds of years," he said.

In 2013 when the rebels took over areas close to Jaweesh's farm, he fled the area and returned in 2015 after the army secured parts of that sprawling region.

Upon returning, he found the farm burned down and the factory damaged from the mortar rounds.

The return was not easy as he had to start from scratch. His love for his job and the passion that he had to revive his family's legacy pushed him to continue without surrendering to the tough circumstances.

"When we returned, we brought new trees and we have exerted tremendous efforts over the past six years. We took care of the trees and started collecting apricots to produce this sweet," he said.

During the crisis, Jaweesh recounted that many farmers and businessmen went to Egypt to start this project. He, however, said that the way it's done in Syria is more original.

"Some business owners moved to Egypt to start this project there but they are using mechanical drying system instead of the natural one. The mechanical method doesn't produce as good quality as the one in Syria, where we are using natural drying methods," he said.

Jaweesh noted that Qamar al-Din is very important for supporting the Syrian economy as it is a very favorable import by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States in general as this type of sweet is consumed in the summer to cool off the body in hot areas.

Still, the Western sanctions have wreaked havoc on all aspects of economy in Syria and the Qamar al-Din sweet was no different.

"We are facing many difficulties such as difficulty in exporting our product as the Western sanctions are hindering money transactions through banks from outside the country," he said.

The farmer stressed that care should be taken of this sweet because it brings in foreign currency to Syria.

"As we have started anew and we got rid of terrorism, I hope that this sweet gets more attention either through marketing or getting more facilitation because this product brings in foreign currency to the country," he said.

According to official statistics, Syria ranks the third in the world in the production of apricots, after Morocco and Algeria. The amount of apricot crop production last year was 36,324 tons in the country.

Global Times
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