Ice cream business booms in war torn Syria
Amidst the ongoing chaos caused by the civil war in Syria, ice cream is the last thing you would think people would have on their minds. But the Bakdash ice cream shop in the old town of Damascus is always packed with people looking for ice cream and peace of mind.
"Of course, when you come here you can just relax," says one patron. "It is a relaxing place where you can forget everything that's going on."
Bakdash is a family run business started in 1895. They make their ice cream by stirring and beating milk, sugar and other ingredients in ice cold drums, just like they did over 100 years ago. They method is so good, the owners say it has spread around the world.
"The biggest ice cream makers in the world know that this type of ice cream was started here in Syria. And we sent people from Syria to teach them how to make ice cream a long time ago," says shop owner Hisham Hamdi Bakdash.
While the civil war has made business at home more difficult, that hasn't stopped Bakdash from growing. Recently, the company expanded to Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. All of the ice cream is made in Syria and exported to Lebanon in refrigerated trucks.
Despite the war, Bakdash is a company that is actually doing quite well. But a lot of other Syrian companies, especially small and medium size businesses, are not fairing as well. Because of the ongoing crisis, people are spending less money, causing many stores to shorten their open hours.
Even though business is going well now, there is always fear that the fighting may spread to the old town. Until then, Bakdash is proving that flexibility and bold business decisions seem to be a way to survive; even for a company that hasn't changed its recipe in almost 120 years.