Syrians attend the Damascus International Fair in Damascus, capital of Syria, Aug. 17, 2017. After a five-year suspension, the Damascus International Fair, the Syrian economy's window to the world, kicked off in Damascus on Thursday evening, with the government sending a message of recovery following a six-year war. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
DAMASCUS, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- After a five-year suspension, the Damascus International Fair, the Syrian economy's window to the world, kicked off in Damascus on Thursday evening, with the government sending a message of recovery following a six-year bloody war.
Established in 1954, the fair's last edition was held in 2011, the first year of the Syrian war. In later years, the fair was suspended because of the battles, particularly those around the fairgrounds in southeastern rim of Damascus.
With the participation of foreign companies from 43 Arab and foreign countries including China, Russia, Iran, France, Britain and Belgium, the 59th edition of the Damascus International Fair started at the fairgrounds near the international airport of Damascus.
The government has made massive preparations and enhancement in the capital for the event, which is seen by officials as a sign of the economic recovery of Syria.
The enhancement includes cleaning the riverbed of Barada River, mainly the canal that runs in the heart of the city.
Also, the Damascene Sword monument, the city's main symbol, has been restoring in the Umayyad Square, the main square in Damascus.
The monument has suffered damages due to the mortar shells that rained down the capital when the rebels were strong in the eastern countryside of Damascus.
New glass was put on the facade of the monument, with new lights lightening the sword.
The road linking western and eastern Damascus has also been widened and paved with new bitumen, new green plants being put along the road.
The road to the airport has also received restoration. It was used for military purposes when the villages and towns around the airport were in the hands of the rebels.
The two roads will be the main way for visitors to reach the fairgrounds near the Damascus airport.
The government also installed new power-saving street lights along the road to the airport and central Damascus.
For its part, the Syrian airlines made a 30 percent discount for all flights to Damascus International Airport during the 10-day fair.
The government will also provide free transportation from Damascus to the fairgrounds to all the visitors from 8:00 a.m. till 12:00 a.m.
Just less than two months ago, the government has started removing checkpoints from the capital, in a bid to minimize the number of checkpoints that have mushroomed across the country over the past six years of war.
Prime Minister Imad Khamis said holding the fair is a "real evidence of the strength of the Syrian state and its ability to shake off the dust of war and embark on work and production."
For his part, Minister of Economy Muhammad Samer Khalil said that "Syria is witnessing an economic and cultural event on the regional level."
He said this year's fair is special and will be the most distinct in the history of the fair due to the messages it sends to the world that "the economic recovery has begun and that life is beating in Syria where the economic and cultural activities are back again despite the vicious and unjust war."
"The Syrian economy was able to rise again, and this is reflecting on the current production," he said.
He noted that the large participation of local companies is a sign of the beginning of the economic recovery in Syria.
He added that the fair's display space was designated at 74,000 square meters, for over 1,600 participating companies.
During the ten-day event, musical concerts for Arab and Syrian artists will take place daily. Also, economic lectures will take place as well as promotional activities.
The fair showcases all kinds of products, including Syria-assembled cars, electronics, food items, and construction gears. Syria-based foreign embassies also have pavilions in the fair.
Experts believe that the fair comes at a time when the political deals for Syria seem near, which pushes the government as well as local and foreign companies to start planning investments.
When the war is over, Syria is expected to be the main attraction of foreign companies, and governments, particularly those interested in the reconstruction process.
Foreign investments will also play a role in shoring up the sluggish economy in Syria, which took a heavy beating during the war.
After six years of war in Syria, the country's economy has become crippled with the wide-ranging U.S. and European sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's government.
The total economic losses so far are calculated at about 226 billion U.S. dollars, according to estimates published by the World Bank last month.
The report found that cumulative GDP losses since the war erupted "have been estimated at 226 billion dollars, about four times the Syrian GDP in 2010."
The effects will be felt for decades, as it would take 10 to 15 years for Syria's per capita GDP to return to pre-war levels.