Tue, 26 Sep 2023

"Tuk-tuk lady" ekes out living on Damascus streets

31 May 2023, 21:05 GMT+10

© Provided by Xinhua

by Hummam Sheikh Ali

DAMASCUS, May 31 (Xinhua) -- For Rasha Hasan, driving a tuk-tuk on Damascus streets was a way for her to make a living and support her three school-age children.

The 46-year-old widow used to be a taxi driver owning a private car 12 years ago, until the civil war hit her residential neighborhood - the al-Tadamun neighborhood in Damascus and forced her family displaced.

Her car got stolen and her house was set ablaze, a typical story shared by thousands of Syrians who've suffered from the burns of the years-long crushing war.

The death of her husband during the war made Hasan's life more challenging.

© Provided by Xinhua

What's worse, the scarcity and high price of fuel due to war and economic woes compounded the woman's suffering when she took up her old job as a taxi driver by renting a car.

Flipping through pages on Facebook, Hasan one day bumped into an advertisement for electric tuk-tuks and figured that purchasing a tuk-tuk could be a more affordable option for her rather than renting a taxi.

The tuk-tuk is similar to a three-wheeled open taxi outfitted with a cabin enough for at most three passengers.

© Provided by Xinhua

Always dressed in bright-colored funky-style clothing, Hasan can easily attract the attention of passers-by when weaving through traffic on the streets, earning her the nickname of "tuk-tuk lady."

Speaking to Xinhua about her experience, Hasan prided herself on being a very skilled driver who can dodge holes and bumps smoothly.

"I am the first woman to drive a tuk-tuk in Damascus. I have not yet seen another woman driving a tuk-tuk here," she said, recounting that some passengers were afraid to take her tuk-tuk at the beginning, fearing they "could fall into one of the many holes on the streets."

In addition to holes in the drive, the limited battery capacity of the tuk-tuk is another challenge for Hasan.

"I am limited to a three-hour work per day due to the battery capacity. I charge the tuk-tuk for four hours to ensure a three-hour drive. I keep working until the battery dies. Most days, people help push my tuk-tuk back home," she said.

© Provided by Xinhua

Hasan is now saving money to install a solar panel on the tuk-tuk so that the vehicle can be recharged while it is driven, enabling her to work longer.

After safety was restored in the neighborhood, Hasan and her children moved back to their house but found themselves unable to afford to repair the damaged part.

As summer comes, Hasan hopes her children who are attending music classes, could help support the family by working with some bands during the summer activities.

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