At beloved falafel shop, Syrians get taste of pre-war Raqqa

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Amid the ruins of Raqqa, a small red shop is bringing some color back to the city.

The al-Malik falafel restaurant, a culinary institution serving the city center for 40 years, finally reopened in early January.

The owners had fled during the four-month battle to expel the Islamic State group from the city. But they've now returned, and so have their customers.

Ammar Qattab, a restaurant owner, said "Our business is good, thank God. There is more and more work. There was a slowdown for a period, but since our return to the city work has resumed. "

Elsewhere in Raqqa, the same scenes are repeated: people recover what they can from damaged buildings, clearing and repairing their homes. Abdel-Sattar returned in early January to rebuild his house.

Abd el-Sattar al-Abid, a resident of Raqqa, said "Despite the danger, I entered the house with the construction workers.We went straight to work. We did not examine whether there were mines, unfortunately. We entered because we wanted to work so that we could live there. What can we do ? "

Public services like running water and electricity have yet to return to Raqqa, and generators are too expensive for most.

In the middle of winter, staying warm is a daily challenge.

Mohammed al-Amer, fuel salesman, said "Wood is the only alternative to oil. People are burning wood to stay warm. Those who don't have any burn mattresses or old furniture. People are in a terrible situation, God help them."

Those who returned to Raqa hoped for a better life there than in the IDP camps. But so far only a few hundred have taken their chances, and come home.

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