As war rages in Syria, Ruba insists on celebrating her wedding. But rather than hold a lavish reception, she has invited her nearest and dearest to lunch at a small restaurant near her home in central Damascus.

Wearing a white dress, she has mixed feelings of joy and pain, as the conflict unfolds just kilometres away.

"Every girl dreams of her wedding day, and of celebrating with all her friends and relatives. I've had to make do with inviting just those closest to me for lunch," Ruba tells AFP.

The wedding guests make their way home early, among them the groom's family, who live in an area beset by security problems.

Friends living in strife-torn Damascus province, outside the capital, could not make it at all because of checkpoints, nearby battles and "difficulties getting around", she says.

Though the heart of the city is still relatively safe, Ruba feels the danger all around her. But she refuses to let the war ruin her future.

"Life doesn't wait," she says.

So, like thousands of other Damascenes, she lives day to day by restricting her movements to her neighbourhood.

Traditionally, Syrian newlyweds honk their car horns as they tour city districts with friends and family, before arriving at the wedding hall.

Wedding parties would last till dawn, but at Ruba's brief celebration "there was no music. The time... is not right" for a full-blown ceremony, she says.

War has also changed life for Talal, a 52-year-old engineer.

He lives in the suburb of Dummar with his family, and makes sure he buys his groceries while on his way back from work "so I don't have to leave the house in the evening".

Talal complains about the lack of mobility. Before the war, he would go out with friends most evenings, and "visit family every Friday".

His relatives live nearby, but their homes are separated by two checkpoints. Getting past them often means waiting for two hours.

Damascus has been fragmented into distinct, self-sufficient security zones, "whose residents are now holed up", Talal says.

Housewife Munira agrees, reminiscing about the days when she would take her family for weekend excursions to the countryside near Damascus.

"We can't go out any more because of security problems," she says.

Munira describes the family's trips to the Ghouta area of Damascus province, which has gone from being a destination for flower lovers to a scene of fierce, constant fighting between rebels and government forces.

Today, Damascus residents "have enough with just going out within the confines of their own neighbourhoods, whether for recreation or to buy what they need", says Munira.

Frequent shellfire has hit central Damascus and checkpoints at the entrances to the capital as well as at major intersections create endless traffic jams.

"It's true that checkpoints have made traffic slow... but it's all so that we ensure safety and security for citizens," says Abu Ali, a soldier inspecting a car near the heart of Damascus.

Already hours late for work, a driver says "checkpoints have sectioned off the city, while doing nothing to stop mortar or car bomb attacks".

Damascus has been hit by a string of car bomb blasts and shelling attacks, killing dozens of people and wounding many more.

But some people have benefited from the change in Damascus' lifestyle.

Some sports clubs are still open, and people flock to their neighbourhood gym to exercise.

Cafes that once had few visitors are now packed, as people from the district have little choice but to meet friends near their homes.

Just a few hundred metres away from the battle-scarred Jubar district, Ghassan's cafe is doing better than ever.

"Because of the difficulties getting around, and because people are looking for a place to relax... they choose the cafe closest to home," he says, visibly pleased that his business is booming.

"People used to be reluctant to visit neighbourhood cafes. They preferred the parks outside the city. But now, all that is different."

No matter what is going on around them, Ghassan says, "the Syrian people have a real love of life".

...,/.,