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Syria - May 20, 2011 - 10:44

Last modified: 20 May 2011 07:44

The protests against Bashar al-Assad are taking a toll on the country's economy, and nowhere is the effect more evident than in Damascus.

Here's a smattering of opinions and experiences of people who work and/or own businesses in the old souk in the capital:

Hani Abou al-Nasser, a 64-year old storekeeper in the old souk:

I haven't made a penny in four days. There is no work. The tourists are gone.

"I used to sell up to 30,000 dollars worth of merchandise a month and last month I made only 3,000. This month it's probably going to go down to 500 dollars. I can last at this rate for two more months but beyond that, it's not possible. I will have to shut down the store."

Antoune Mezannar, the owner of the Beit Al Mamlouka hotel, who has had to lay off half his employees and whose two hotels are empty, says the protests are being overly hyped:

They are distorting reality and turning away tourists. There is nothing going on in Damascus and yet if you watch the news it looks like the whole country is afire."

Viken Korkejian, director of the Oriental Hotel and Restaurant:

We have laid off about 50 percent of our hotel staff and 25 percent of the restaurant staff. The hotel courtyard used to be filled with customers we could chat with and now it's totally empty, it's sinister. I had two Swiss customers  earlier this month for five days and I felt like I was in heaven."

Samer Koza, jewellery store and art gallery owner:

We had the best season ever last year and we were expecting to do even better this year. But now we are starting to tighten our belts. I stopped some restoration work that was being done at the gallery and cancelled a planned vacation with my wife to Sweden this summer. I simply cannot afford to go on vacation and pay my employees at the same time."