With border open, Jordanians visit Syria for first time in years

A Jordanian man opens the door of his car in Damascus, Syria October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

DAMASCUS/JABER, Jordan (Reuters) – Jordanians are flocking to the Syrian capital Damascus for the first time in years for tourism and trade after the reopening of a border crossing that had been closed through years of war.

“I will visit every week,” said Rizik, carrying bags of children’s clothes and spices with his family.

“God willing, we can get back to work.”

Bilal Bashi, who runs a company selling abayas in Damascus, said he had seen more Jordanian tourists and shoppers since the crossing opened. “No doubt there will be an economic (boost). It will have a positive effect,” he said at the historic Souk al-Hamidieh market in the Old City of Damascus.

Still, Raed Maseh, another Syrian trader, said the increase in Jordanian visitors had not had a real impact yet and hoped more people would come.

The Syrian war further added to the strain on an already difficult relationship between Damascus and Amman. U.S.-allied Jordan provided support to some of the insurgents fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

But diplomatic ties were not severed entirely and Syria’s relations with Jordan never turned as hostile as they did with some other regional states, notably Turkey which remains a major backer of the opposition.

Intisar Murshid, the head of a Damascus hotel, said she received some 14 Jordanian guests on the first day the crossing opened. They came to shop, work, or visit relatives.

“For eight years we did not see Jordanians, very rarely.”

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