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Drinks and dancing drown out war as nightlife returns to Damascus

In Damascus's Old City, just a few kilometres from the line dividing government and rebel fighters, young Syrians smoke, drink beer or soft drinks and talk about anything but the war.

Take a look at the bar scene in the Syrian capital

It's a weeknight, but Damascenes are keen to hit a strip of bars that have opened in the past few months. Some are going to socialize and others to work in the venues.

(Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Nightlife in Syria looks a lot like nightlife everywhere else.

Businesses in the once-vibrant old quarter are gradually reopening even as the five-year-old civil war continues nearby.

(Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Bar life is more than just a way to forget the war.

Late last year, shells were landing not far from Pub Sharqi, where 21-year-old bartender Dana Daqqaq works nights while studying for her fine art degree. 

"In the last few months — it's not just weekends, it's every day — places are crammed with a cross-section of society coming out," Daqqaq told photographer Omar Sanadiki, who shot this series last month.

(Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

'People are tired of war so they go out.'

A night out like this wouldn't have been possible two years ago. "People are tired of war. They want to socialize," a bartender named Dana said at this '80s-themed dance bar.

(Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Rampant inflation makes buying a drink a challenge.

In this Old City bar, notes amounting to 550 Syrian pounds (about $1 US) will get a beer. Cigarettes, which bartender Daqqaq said cost 250 Syrian pounds a few months ago, go for 450 now.

(Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Hope and apprehension mix in Damascus's bars.

On the streets, Russian intervention and a partial truce called in February are said to have brought some calm, but some young men are anxious to avoid army enlistment. Despite the mood in the bars, the war is never far from mind.

It's a safe bet everyone here has lost loved ones to violence and displacement.

(Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

The party rolls on despite blackouts.

At night, generators whirr outside while entire blocks are often plunged into darkness on account of Damascus's damaged power grid. In the bars, though, the party rolls on and the patrons do their best to restrict thoughts of the war to daylight hours.

(Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

With files from CBC News

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