On a Facebook group than contained thousands of Syrian women, a 22 years old girl added a post asking if other girls knew any fortune -tellers so she can go, and then know about her luck in the coming year.
Ghada said: "Girls, I want to go to a woman diviner. I would like to start my new year with some advice and also maybe some luck, hoping to have a fresh beginning and better days."
Around hundred comments replied in the next hours. Some gave her names and numbers of women who predict the future either online, on the phone or face -to -face. Others suggested that she only followed her horoscope to know what the new year would look like.
After hours of discussion, Ghada and five girls decided to gather the next day in a café in Damascus and meet with a woman who read palm lines. "She is very talented and will tell you everything you would need to know," a reply from one of the girls confirmed.
Hands, Numbers and Coffee
During the new year period in Syria, and like almost all other countries around the world, not only celebrations, food and parties are popular, but also superstition, that are gaining more traction year after year, in a country that is torn apart after more than seven years of brutal war.
Eman, a 35 years old woman who work as a teacher in the Syrian coastal city Tartous, also works as a fortune teller, answering phone calls and WhatsApp messages, from people asking to know more about their future.
"I ask them to recharge my phone number with money (around 2 USD) before telling them anything, then I need to know their name, date of birth, father and mother's names. I use some calculations that I have learned from an old woman who used to live in my village, then I can tell them what to expect, " said Eman.
Some of Eman's clients want to know specific information, about their personal life or their career. Others are only curious in general. "They mostly love to hear positive things," she said.
And with the approaching of the new year, Eman's phone does not stop ringing. "People get crazy during this time of the year. They would like to start the new year as if it is a new phase with a cheerful spirit. They often think that they can change something by knowing what is waiting for them, " said Eman.
Horoscopes and calculating numbers from dates are not the only fortune -telling techniques that are popular in Syria. Other types include reading palm lines, playing cards and reading the coffee grounds from Arabic coffee.
However, all types of predicting the future had become more popular in Syria in the past few years. Eman said that her customers are growing year after year, considering this as a way to escape stress and search for the positive and the good things that might happen to them. "They say that reality is very ugly, so maybe they want to know that the future can be slightly better," said Eman.
Looking for a Safe Zone
Entering a new year is a kind of transitional period that can sometimes cause anxiety and a fear of the unknown, and this can be lessened, by adding some certainty to someone's knowledge of the possible future, said Hanaa Nayazi, a psychological expert who has been working as counsellor in Syria during the past five years.
"Everyone around the world needs security, especially those who have lost all sense of safety and peace, such as Syrians in the past seven years. Knowing anything positive about the future, even if it is just a prediction, and it can help them to be more resilient while still living in the same hard circumstances," Hanaa added, and mentioned that predictions can also help people to get ready for any possible bad news.
Those factors, according to Hanaa, are the reasons why millions gravitate towards TV, radio shows and books that tell them what will happen next year, especially on new year's eve.
Hanaa also confirmed that going to fortune-tellers and following other kinds of superstitions is not limited to certain social or economic classes, as the only motivation is a psychological one. "All kinds of future predictions are somehow like a pain reliever. They sometimes can help as an antidepressant for any periods of oppressions or hardships people are passing through."