Shops in Jerusalem’s Old City were only partially open on March 10, 2024, as Ramadan approached.


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Blog Post

Old City Shopkeepers Hope for Economic Revival This Ramadan

“It is true that no customer has entered my shop for several months, but the presence of people walking in the alleys of Jerusalem is heartening and gives me a boost of hope that the coming days of Ramadan may be better,”1 said Khaled Saheb, 60, the owner of a men’s clothing shop on al-Wad Street in the Old City of Jerusalem. The shop is tiny, no more than eight square meters, and it is on the road to al-Aqsa Mosque. 

Khaled stands in front of his shop and smiles. “Although there have been no customers, I insist on opening my shop every day from morning until the evening maghrib prayer. Even if mine is the only shop open in the market, at least my shop will illuminate the path of worshippers and passersby in front of them.”

Old City shopkeeper Khaled Saheb

Old City shopkeeper Khaled Saheb


Khalil Assali

While Khaled waited, a man stopped in front of his shop and asked him if he had gotten any new merchandise recently. Khaled replied, “This week I hope to bring a new batch of beautiful clothes and jackets for young age groups, and I will reserve something for you.” The potential customer left quietly and Khaled looked up at the sky and said, “Thank God,” viewing the passerby as a sign that some commercial activity might resume in the markets of the Old City, which had dried up a long time ago due to Israel’s multitiered closures—on the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Old City, and East Jerusalem generally—imposed from October 7, 2023, the day it declared war on Gaza.

All merchants and shopkeepers in the Old City are hoping that calm will prevail in Jerusalem and that the police will continue to ease their measures so that Jerusalemites and Palestinian citizens of Israel can return to the Old City, which has become isolated from its surroundings over the past several months. Merchants in the Old City have been so hard hit that many have already sold their shops; others are waiting for the opportunity to do so.

This is the hope sustaining the Old City merchants: They have been eagerly awaiting the month of Ramadan with the expectation that it will bring some economic improvement. Ramadan is the only month in which the streets and alleys of Jerusalem fill with passersby and visitors who are keen to buy Jerusalem cakes, special drink syrup, and tamarind. Surely, they will not leave Jerusalem before buying al-barazek al-maqdisi, the very thin layer of dough covered generously with sesame. These treats are sold only during Ramadan.

Before leaving the Old City and heading home, Khaled noticed many busses parked in front of Damascus Gate. Dozens of Palestinians from the Galilee and other locations in Israel disembarked and made their way to al-Aqsa Mosque for sunset prayers and iftar and then evening prayers and tarawih

Merchants like Khaled fervently hope they will buy something from the many clothing and eatery shops before they reboard the busses and return home.

Merchants in the Old City have been so hard hit that many have already sold their shops.



Khaled Saheb, interview by the author, March 12, 2024. All subsequent quotes from Saheb are from this interview.

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