“German fever” has now gripped Damascus, where young professionals and students are scrambling to learn German — a prerequisite for student visas.

Before the war erupted, the Goethe Institute cultural centre had offered language classes in Damascus.

But since it closed its doors, more than 25 German language schools have sprung up to serve at least 1,000 students.

Pupils pay $200 to $250 (179-223 euros) to reach the language level required to apply for a student visa.

At the Ibn Sina centre, the demand is so high that the administration has replaced all English courses with German, director Mohammad al-Omari tells AFP.