A Syrian boy plays with pigeons at Marjeh Square in the capital Damascus on March 16, 2016. AFP / LOUAI BESHARA
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At the Damascus opera house, youths in jeans, old gentlemen in suits and ties and women in long-sleeved dresses and headscarves cheer and applaud the two performers of Arabic love songs. As the audience sways to the music, one man twirling a tissue in each hand, the 5-year-old war that has crippled their country is all but forgotten, at least for the evening.With the backdrop of rocketing food prices, a decimated currency, a jobless rate above 50 percent and families living hand-to-mouth, it's a slice of Damascus life that offers an insight into how President Bashar Assad manages to maintain a veneer of normalcy long after Arab Spring revolts toppled other leaders.The project was supposed to include office space, a five-star hotel, residences, space for 255 retail outlets, cinemas and the new headquarters of the Damascus Securities Exchange.It means that Syria needs to build about 300,000 homes a year over the next decade, added Dardari, a former Syrian deputy prime minister.For those who remained in the relative calm of Damascus, Syria feels a bit different.
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