Mohammad Rami al-Rabbat, one of the al-Nofara cafe's owners, waters the plants at the entrance of the historic al-Nofara cafe in the old city of Damascus, Syria, May 8, 2020.(Photo by Ammar Safarjalani/Xinhua)
DAMASCUS, May 11 (Xinhua) -- For the first time in its more than 250-year-old history, the al-Nofara cafe in the old city of Damascus has closed its doors as part of the preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cafe, like any other restaurant or coffee shop in Damascus, has to close as the government ordered the shuttering of public places to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.
Located in the stone-built old city, al-Nofara was a place for evening gatherings, as people used to visit this high-ceilinged cafe to enjoy shisha and stories told by a storyteller, a tradition of the old cafes in Damascus.
Al-Nofara is also one of the main tourist attractions in Damascus as tourists used to flock this cafe ahead of Syria's nine-year-long war.
Those who visit al-Nofara have to pass through the time-honored al-Hamidiyeh souk, one of the ancient covered souks in Syria. What distinguishes al-Nofara is its famous three thresholds and porches as well as its view of the ancient Umayyad Mosque.
Now, the doors of al-Nofara are closed and inside, the chairs and tables are packed in one corner, missing the patrons who used to frequent the cafe to release the day's stress and enjoy the company of one another.
Mohammad Rami al-Rabbat, one of the cafe's owners, said he learned his job from his father and his grandfather inherited it from his great-great grandfather.
He said that during the 250 years of his family's ownership of the cafe, they didn't close it as much as now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cafe remained open during the Syrian war when mortar shells used to rain down old Damascus from the formerly rebel-held eastern al-Ghouta countryside.
Even though the cafe is now closed, al-Rabbat comes every day to check on it. He opens the doors, makes the sunlight goes in while watering the roses on the porch. He gets greeted by passersby who come and take photos in front of the cafe, while some of them ask for permission to enter and take photos inside even though it's closed for customers.
Al-Rabbat even placed a stretcher inside so he can lay down and relax alone, saying the place lives inside of him and that he cannot just stop coming.
"I come here every day because my soul loves this place. It's like it lives within us and we live in it. I wish this coronavirus crisis will pass quickly to return to our job and open the cafe," he hoped.
The famous cafe has customers who used to come every day and are now counting the days until the crisis is over.
Wissam Hamoudeh, is one of those customers, who said he feels something is missing when he doesn't show up.
"I live in old Damascus and I used to visit the cafe every day even if I didn't want to drink tea or have shisha. I just drop by because the day I don't come here I feel something is missing, particularly in Ramadan," he told Xinhua. Enditem