Breeding and selling Saluki dogs is a popular business in Al-Darbasiyah, a Syrian town on the border with Turkey that seems to have survived both the war and a pandemic.
In the village of Alia, in the outskirts of Al-Darbasiyah, breeders like Mohamed Derbas race greyhounds and salukis with their motorbikes for over a decade.
“I raise about 50 hunting dogs. Currently, I am waiting for the road to be re-opened to transport them to their Emirati owners. Raising hunting dogs is very popular in this region and we have inherited it from our fathers. Nowadays, we sell them to Emirati and Qatari nationals for approximately $2,000 — $3,000 (€1,700 — €2,500) each. Whenever I see a beautiful dog around, I immediately buy it for the Gulf citizens,” breeder Mohamed Derbas stated.
The dogs seem fit, warm and happy, but for the breeders, COVID-19 made life more difficult. According to Derbas, shipping and transportation came to a halt for about six months, but he is still finding ways to complete his sales.
«This week, I’ve shipped a number of dogs to Qatar via Damascus International Airport, and they were safely received, thank God,» Derbas explained.
The harsh times brought by the pandemic mirrored the ones experienced during the war in Syria.
“When ISIS controlled the area, all roads, including the international roads, were cut off. The Turkish attack on Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad also destroyed our businesses and blocked the roads again. Previously, we easily shipped our dogs to Damascus and from there to the Gulf states. Likewise, living has become tougher due to the collapse of the Syrian pound. Out profits declined so much that we sell the dogs for as low as $2000-$3000 (€1,700 — €2,500),” Another breeder from the village Akram Muso stated.