When Isis took over Raqqa, a wave of black swept over the city. The Islamic State group's dark flags were raised where its members lived or worked, women were required to shroud themselves in black, and black paint was daubed on buildings and in public spaces.
When US air strikes started, activists warned families not to dry dark clothes outside or on their roofs, in case they were mistaken for Isis flags. Perhaps Isis was worried, too, as it has started repainting everything.
One central square, where crucifixion and other gruesome punishments are carried out in public, has been decked out in candy colours - pink, green and white. Another is golden.
Apparently, the pressures of publicity and the mundane and expensive business of ruling a city have pushed even Isis to make some compromises.
Last summer, crimes like smoking or failing to shutter a shop during prayer time would have earned transgressors several dozen lashes, but some religious police have started to accept fines in place of punishment, from those who can afford it.
It is not just money that they are short of. They lack blood for fighters injured in air strikes or on the frontline. People don't want to donate, so they compel them.
Anyone with business at the Islamic court is told first to go to a certain hospital, donate a pint of blood, then return with the receipt. Only then will the case be processed.
You can't pay your way out of that donation, even if you do have money, which not everyone does.
They have shut down many companies, including legal firms, for instance. Isis doesn't believe in the old legal system, claiming that it tries to replace Allah's law with the law of men.
Isis doesn't want people to work, it just wants them to suffer, so that the men will join the group, and the women will marry Isis fighters.
The Isis men seem to be sex-mad. They are always confiscating Viagra from pharmacies, which people think they use themselves. Many take several wives and still look for captives to take as concubines.
The city has become a prison for women under 45. The regime says they cannot leave because they may be raped in areas held by Isis or other rebel groups, but most people inside Raqqa think that it is because they are desperate for more wives for the fighters.
The female brigades have put out a notice saying that anyone who wants to marry an Isis fighter should wear a white veil under their black one, and they will be contacted. Girls don't really like them, and don't want to marry them, but some families have economic problems.
But when the women do marry they have other problems. Some don't even know the true identity of their husbands, only the nom de guerre; one woman's husband was killed in battle but all she knows is that he came from Tunisia.
Isis has banned men born after 1992 from leaving the city for regime areas, to take exams, collect salaries or anything else. That means that no one can go any more, because who wants to flee to Turkey without their wife or daughters and sons?
Also, people don't want to leave because as soon as anyone goes, Isis seizes their house. It has confiscated many homes from Christians and members of the Free Syrian Army.
Before Isis took over, the population of Raqqa was one million; now it is 400,000. But people say, "Where will I go?" So they just stay here, waiting for an unknown tomorrow.
With no work, they mostly just stay at home watching television or using the internet.
People are worried about their children. No children are being forced to join up, but they are bored. Isis bans anyone under 13 from working. After being closed for a year, the schools reopened this month, but teachers had to go and denounce themselves for using "infidel" textbooks. No one is happy about the new Isis teachers.
Raqqa was never an exciting city but now there is nothing to do at all. Anyone attempting to sneak out is executed in secret. They killed several people in the west of the city and just dumped their bodies in a hole until the smell got so bad they had to bury them.
• Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi is an activist with the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.
The video is chilling, even by the warped standards of Isis. It shows the gruesome murders of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. Then the warning: a khaki-clad killer points a bloodstained finger north and declares: "We will conquer Rome, by Allah's permission."
One response might be fear and warnings Italy is next on the list but that's not, it seems, the Italian way.
Instead thousands have taken to Twitter to offer the violent jihadis a series of cheeky travel tips. They include useful advice on avoiding the rush hour and the best Italian wines to pair with prosciutto, all filed under the hashtag #We_Are_Coming_O_Rome. They include:
@PoliticalLaughs Don't try coming over the Alps on elephants, Romans are wise to that trick now.
@EthicalRobot Don't let #Scalexdhettino steer your ships. He [goes] too close to islands.
@cwithta Don't fall for the "jump the line!" offers at the Vatican; it's a scam. Just wait your turn ...
—Telegraph Group Ltd