In Zaatari camp, a Syria Town blooms on Jordanian soil

by Muath Freij and Areej Abuqudairi JORDAN TIMES

MAFRAQ — Only two months after it was inaugurated in late July, the Zaatari Refugee Camp, which is now home to at least 49,000 refugees, started to look like a mini-Syria town.

Just a little after settling down, some refugees, who came with money from Syria, began converting tents into small shops, selling clothing, groceries, electronics and cleaning materials.

As more of these shops sprang up, the main street dividing the eastern and western parts of the camp turned into a marketplace.

Mohammad Hariri, one of at least 30 “shopkeepers”, said the souk is usually the busiest between 5:00pm and 10:00pm.

“As night falls, countless numbers of men and women come to shop for clothes, or simply wander around the market as they used to do back in Syria,” Hariri said, recalling how the market reminds him of the one he worked at in the southern city of Daraa.

Camp visitors are met with the smell of freshly baked bread, fried falafel and brewed coffee as they cross to one side of the Zaatari camp.

Mohammad Duroobi, who was among the first to open a falafel stall, said demand for other kinds of food such as sweets grew over time.

“At first, I began serving falafel and traditional bread. But afterwards, I started making and selling kunafeh. Other vendors started selling awwameh and zalabyah [traditional Syrian sweets].”

“Children stop for falafel on the way to or from school, just like the old days,” said the 30-year-old.

Between the tents, where Syrian families reside, some tents have been turned into coffee and argileh cafés.

Ibrahim Nuaimi gets very busy at nighttime.

“It is mainly young men who come here to kill time, by smoking argileh and discussing political issues and what is going on back home,” he said.

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In this recent photo at the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, a Syrian is preparing a dish that he sells in his shop in the camp, which has been turning into a tent Syria Town (Photo by Muath Freij)

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