He watches TV, lifts weights and does household chores: Ibrahim Abu Mohammed’s family has taken refuge in Turkey and like other fathers in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo he has returned to guard their deserted home.
The thuds of shelling and rattle of machine-gun fire can be heard from only two kilometers (a mile) away, and the whirring of helicopter blades rattles the windows.
Yet the small dirty concrete buildings of Ansari -- a Sunni neighborhood close to the front lines and near the center of the northern city but without rebel positions -- are largely intact.
Like Ibrahim, there are a few men left behind, keeping watch over their property and brave enough to venture out to monitor the streets, on the lookout for the slightest noise, looters or strangers.
“When the shelling first started on July 20, we fled. We didn’t think this could happen here in Aleppo,” says the 52-year-old barber, his moustache finely trimmed and his arms sculpted by years of fitness.
Ibrahim has dug a hole in the wall in the lobby of the building, to hold an iron rod with which he bars the entrance to the building each night. He lives on the third floor, with two floors above for some protection from shelling.
“The bombardments are especially intense at night, after midnight,” he says. “Then I watch TV and turn up the volume. In the early morning it’s quiet and I see the first silhouettes in the street. I sleep there on the floor.”
He points to a foam mattress, leaning against the couch in front of the flat screen.
He hopes the large armchair will protect him from shrapnel if a bomb lands too close. He keeps the windows and inside door open to avoid the force of any blast.
Clean like a maniac
“I don't go outside much: every three days. There are shops open and I do my errands and my grocery shopping -- tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and grapes. I cook, but mostly I clean.”
Barefoot, wearing blue jogging pants and an undershirt, the wavy haired barber laughs: “Like a maniac, I spend hours cleaning. Even above the doors. The apartment has never been so clean!”
As in many other districts of Aleppo, electricity is surprisingly consistent for a war zone. The rare cuts happen for an hour at a time – “luckily,” he says.
“Without TV and air conditioning, I couldn’t last.”
The phone even works from time to time, and he can find out news from his family.
Ibrahim’s barber's shop is in another neighborhood, which is much more of a target for air raids.
“The last time I went there, I saw a MiG plane pass, and just after that an explosion at the end of the street. It’s too dangerous. And anyway there are no more customers. I pulled down the iron curtain and I haven’t gone back,” he says.
“Fortunately, we had money saved up,” he adds.
His friend and only remaining neighbor, Abu Salem, passes by from time to time. The two men sit for tea or coffee and watch the Arab news stations.
Ibrahim has no passport and is counting on a friend -- an official in an army-controlled area -- to help him get one in a few weeks. For this reason, he is not willing to give his real family name.
“The war is here and throughout the country, and it’s going to last for at least a year,” he predicts.
“When I get the passport ... it depends. If it becomes unbearable here, I’ll give the keys to Abu Salem and head for Kilis” across the border in Turkey where his family along with tens of thousands of refugees have fled.