Syrians ride bicycles in Douma district east of the capital Damascus on May 13, 2018. (Xinhua/Hummam Sheikh Ali)
DOUMA, Syria, May 13 (Xinhua) -- In the formerly rebel-held district of Douma east of Damascus, cars have been deserted with no fuel during the war, which pushed people to bicycles as an alternative means of transportation.
That sprawling district in the Eastern Ghouta countryside was retaken by the army after the rebels' evacuation last month, and the streets in the central part of Douma are now bustling with people riding bicycles.
Few cars were seen, mostly those of the army or the trucks bringing in food to the people in that area, which was the most important bastion of the Islam Army rebels in Eastern Ghouta.
Burnt and destroyed cars were also left on the sidewalks in some of the streets there, reflecting the damage that has befallen large areas there as a result of the war that has dragged on for six years in Eastern Ghouta.
Old and young men, as well as children, were riding bicycles and the people there seemed to have overcome the problem of no regular transportation.
Bilal Delawa was riding his bicycle with his friend sitting behind him. He said those bicycles have been important for the people there with the high price of the fuel during the rebels' time.
"Most people have opted to ride bicycles and it has become the main transportation here in Douma because the fuel was expensive but of course, we favor cars or motorcycles or buses," he said.
Another biker Omar al-Ruz said even though the bikes were an acceptable alternative during the war, but they were not enough especially for workers who move heavy stuff from one place to another.
"The bicycle wasn't enough of a transportation to meet our demands ... for example, I can't transport goods of 100 kg on this bicycle, maybe 50 kg max," he said.
For his part, Bashar Ajweh, another resident of Douma, said that several places for fixing bicycles were opened in Douma during the war, adding that maintenance workers used to charge very high fees for fixing the bicycles, whose prices have jumped 10 folds during the war.
He said that he used to buy fuel in plastic cans for his motorcycle but when it got so expensive, he parked it and started using both the electric bicycle and the regular one.
"Bicycles have not only become the main transportation for regular people but also for workers who move stuff from one place to another but of course lite stuff only," the man said.
For the people in Douma, the transportation at this moment is important but the more important thing is food, which has started entering Douma at prices supported by the government, contrary to the rebel times when the militants used to stockpile food in their warehouses while giving so little to the people at high prices.
During a visit for Xinhua and other media outlets to Douma on Sunday, people were lined up to receive free bread bundles provided by the government.
Also trucks of foods, like potato, tomato and cucumber, were seen selling food items for the civilians at low prices.
People were seen carrying heavy bags of potato while expressing relief that they could finally buy food at low prices, as everything was extremely expensive during the rebels' control in Douma also due to the siege that was imposed on that area and other rebel-held areas in Eastern Ghouta.
Since fully capturing it from the rebels early April, the government made several moves to alleviate the suffering of the people who have been largely affected by the war there.
A mobile oven has been sent to Douma with a daily production capacity of five tons of bread to meet the demands of the people there.
On Saturday, a government-backed shopping festival kicked off in Douma with the participation of more than 40 companies.
The aim of the shopping festival is to offer a variety of foodstuff and other products for the people there at low prices, as part of the efforts to revive Douma and other recently-taken areas in Eastern Ghouta.