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‘Heart of Maras’ rumbles back to life in Türkiye’s quake epicenter

Just weeks ago, the main commercial center in Kahramanmaras wore a deserted and desolate look.

The province was the epicenter of the Feb. 6 earthquakes that tore through southern Türkiye and uprooted millions of lives.

The city center was dotted with collapsed buildings, thousands of people fled to safer cities, and those who remained took refuge in shelters.

A little over a month later, there are signs of renewed life, nowhere more so than the Tarihi Maras Carsisi, one of the city’s most famous historical landmarks and a major trade hub.

Rather, as Necmettin Sagdere, a shopkeeper, put it: “It is the heart of Maras.”

One of the dozens who have reopened their businesses, Sagdere is hoping that those yet to will follow suit sooner rather than later.

“We couldn’t open our stores for three weeks because we were scared. The shops were shut all that time,” he told Anadolu.

“We realized that staying at home is not helpful. We all need something to help us deal with the stress. I told my friends I would reopen my store … we repaired some of the damaged parts and went ahead.”

There was a steady stream of people moving along the cobblestone streets of the sprawling market complex, believed to be standing since the 15th century.

The crowds are growing by the day, said Sagdere, who sells all sorts of copperware.

A few meters away, an elderly man was dusting off his storefront. Once done, he called out to two young workers to help him pull up the shutter.

Inside his small shop, rolls of fabric were stacked on shelves, and even more were strewn across a floor littered with shards of glass – the visible aftermath of the devastating tremors.

“I’m reopening my shop for the first time since the earthquakes,” said Mahmut Dogan, who has been working at the market for some 50 years.

“We will try to hold on to life. If I can come here, if I am able to work, I will work, if God permits,” he said.

On the far end of the market’s winding streets, Umran Tolu, a young woman, sat behind stacks of shawls and scarves, scrolling through her phone.

One of the few women back to work at the bazaar, she said the decision to reopen was driven by more than just financial considerations.

“Our shop has been open for around a week. It is good for us and our psychological state. That’s why the owner asked us to reopen it, to help us feel better. Our work is helping us recover psychologically,” said Tolu.

Like Sagdere, she too is looking forward to seeing the market get back to its usual bustling self.

“We really need people’s support right now,” she said.

Business at Kahramanmaras’ commercial hub is still far from what it once was, but the signs are encouraging.

Sagdere said many shop owners yet to return to Kahramanmaras plan to come back after Ramadan, the Muslim holy month beginning in late March.

“They are still out of the city. Most of them will come after Eid al-Fitr,” he said, referring to the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

“They don’t want to return before that. Everyone has psychological problems right now, but I believe the number of shops reopening will increase after Ramadan.”

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