Hourly black market exchange rates and gold prices in Syria by city:
Motivation and Methodology

Motivation

The black market exchange rate in Syria is as significant as the official exchange rate, if not more so. Gold trading—priced internationally in US dollars—has also been moving increasingly to the black market.

 

Noting the significance of the black market, I have continued to keep an eye on it over the past few years. As Syria’s exchange rate market is becoming increasingly shallow (declining overall volume of exchange), two serious problems are emerging. First, the exchange rates you see on various online platforms can vary significantly from site to site. Second, the exchange rate is becoming, on average, more volatile.

 

To mitigate these issues, I introduced the Black-Market Exchange Rate and Gold Price Tracking Tool. It provides the average of all individual data suppliers widely used by Syrians, mitigating the variations among them and giving a more reliable estimate. Additionally, the tool shows data on an hourly basis for three different cities: Damascus, Aleppo, and Idlib.

Methodology

Once per hour, the data is retrieved using a Python scraper from SP-today, Liranews, and the DEI Android mobile app. Once stored on my server, the bespoke interactive D3.JS visualization queries the data in the server using an API.

 

In the process of developing the tool, the team of programmers I worked with faced a few issues. Sometimes, the DEI app provided unrealistic data—for example, 32,000 instead of 3,200 of the SYP/USD exchange rate—which was clearly the result of adding an additional zero at the end by mistake. To mitigate this problem, we ignored any value from any data supplier which increases by more than 50% in a single hour. Additionally, some data providers don’t provide any data (null) for certain time periods. Missing data points in the graph are filled using linear interpolation, while the average is based only on available data.

 

To give users a sense of the historical movement of the exchange rate prior to the onset of the project in early 2021, we plotted the SYP/USD black market exchange rate as obtained from Syria Direct. This was done by ignoring variations between selling and buying prices and variations on the city level. The Syrian pound to the Turkish Lira (TL) exchange rate, on the other hand, was backed out using the official exchange rate of the Turkish Lira to the USD, as the black market is virtually non-existent in Turkey. The TL/USD exchange rate was obtained from xe.com. Finally, gold prices were also converted to SYP from USD as obtained from goldpricez.com and aboutgold.org.

 

Please contact me if you need to access the underlying data or if you have any tips to improve the current visualization.