I took these photos exactly six years ago, in August 2007.
Syria is on my mind a lot these days. My husband and I lived in Damascus for almost a year in 2007 and loved it. It was an incredible place to live – friendly, safe, beautiful. We travelled around a lot and still didn’t see much of what the country had to offer – Roman ruins in the desert (with faux centurions in spandex if you were lucky), Crusader castles, ancient mosques, courtyard houses, souqs…
Of course there were some teething problems – like when I first arrived in Damascus and we didn’t yet have a car so I had direct taxi drivers back to my house, and my husband taught me ‘right’ and ‘left’ in Arabic the wrong way round. Or when we got a car and then I parked it directly outside the Polish Embassy and it was towed away. Or the time that my husband was stopped by a traffic policeman and didn’t have any form of driving licence on him (or even in Syria as he quickly realised) and almost got the car confiscated. Yes, there were a lot of car-based incidents.
But really, the architecture in this country is mind-blowing. These photos include the Azem Palace which has a series of stone courtyards with fountains, some intricate painted ceilings, and some utterly bizarre statues of people arranged in uncomfortable groupings to show you what genuine people probably didn’t do in the palace in it’s heyday. Also there’s a picture taken at night from the terrace of a restaurant, overlooking the Umayyad Mosque. Sipping mint lemonade, eating an obscene quantity of houmous, admiring minarets – those were the days. We also had tortoises in our garden in Damascus – you would not believe how sex-obsessed those things are. And man, that rutting is noisy.
When it was time for us to move on we left a little piece of our hearts in Damascus, in its beautiful courtyard houses and with its generous, hospitable people. There are dreadful and sad things happening in Syria now, with no indication of when things will improve. All I can do is give money and hope that it helps, that the people of Syria will emerge from this catastrophe soon, and that we’ll be able to take our children to see the people and the places we love one day.