Letters to myself from Syria #1

We visited Syria in November 2010.

At the time we copped quite a lot of flack “Why would you want to go to Syria? blah blah blah…” But we wanted to. And we did. And it was everything and more than we hoped it would be.

We have been finding the night time news stories increasingly heartbreaking. The massacre in Houla was just 50 kilometres from Krac des Chevaliers where we had a particularly special night. That’s the same distance as Bathurst to Orange.

I dug out some emails I sent to friends at the time, but in a way they were more letters to myself. I thought I might share them.

“We have a hotel. Near Bab Touma (Thomas’s gate) in the old city of Damascus. Learnt today that 18 million people live in Syria and 2/3 of those in Damascus, so it must be a huge city outside the old city walls. We have some exploring to do for sure.

I know you know that I am a bit of a softie but for the third time today I have been moved to tears by the unexpected kindness of the people here. It is only 24 hours and ours will be a very shallow impression at this point but if what we have experienced so far is indicative of the people as a whole, the Syrians are just the loveliest people. The Syrian women are so soft, smoky eyed and beautiful. There is little hardness in people’s faces. We noticed that on the second leg of the flight from Cairo last night. The men too. 

We found a hotel after walking the city most of the morning and returned to the hostel to tell them we were pulling up stumps early. (It was pretty rough) Walked in as they were sitting down to lunch.They understood that we were leaving – and why – but nonetheless asked us to sit and have lunch with them.  Spicy chicken legs, marinated lamb, silky hummous, flat bread and fresh fresh salad of cucumber, capsicum, tomatoes and lemon. Out came the arak. Another gentle try to get us to stay with the offer of another room. A gentle no. Please eat, eat!  What a way to do business.

We sat for dinner in a little square tonight surrounded by olive trees and low hanging street lanterns that wouldn’t survive a day in Bathurst. Three women sat at the table next to us smoking apple flavoured tobacco from a hookah and we thought we’d give it a try. It actually wasn’t too bad.  Across the square, heaps of children from littlies to teenagers were in uniform like scouts or guides, giggling and teasing each other…running up the street to talk to their mother on the first floor verandah. Everyone is so uninhibited. Sunday night and everyone, young and old, are out walking the streets. We walked a different route home to the hotel, down an alley we would never consider walking in Sydney. An old man smiled and said ‘Merhaba’ (hello) and we got talking – turns out he is a history professor with three sons, all doctors, all now working in Germany. He is off to visit them next week.

Just chatting over dinner, looking at this lovely street scene…thinking people just want the same thing the world over,…peace, enough to get by and good family and friends. Makes you realise that the politics do not necessarily represent the people.

Encountered the fringe of the immense souks this evening and again, no pressure like Istanbul and Marrakech. Makes you wonder if in another few years if tourism takes off, this will follow the same way.

So here we sit, in the lobby of the little Albal Hotel, looking at the lanterns on the walls, the cacophany of architectural styles and mother of pearl inlaid wood, the trickle of the little central fountain,thinking man it’s nice to have clean crisp sheets.. strike that….man it’s nice to have sheets (as opposed to last night :)))

The bottom line here…get yourselves over to Syria as soon as you can. I’m feeding you pearls here :)) 

Big love,


Five months later all hell broke loose.



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    1. marycnasser
      Posted 4 June 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

      How fortunate you were to have visited Syria!
      I really enjoyed reading this post and seeing your photos.

      Wonderful post.
      I love the idea of listing 10 things you are grateful for.

      So nice to see you BYW 2.0, too!
      All the best,

    2. Posted 4 June 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Looks wonderfully and I think in syria is really so much inspiration and nice things to explore!
      Thank you for sharing.
      Wish you a nice day

      • Posted 4 June 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        Some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen Eos. I hope they find peace soon.

    3. Posted 4 June 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Hi Margaret! LOVED this post – beautifully written and photographed yet so poignant. Glad to have met you via BYW 2.0. 🙂

      • Posted 4 June 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        Chi I’ve left a message in your BYW inbox 🙂 Thanks for taking the time.

    4. Posted 4 June 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Your beautiful description is very poignant. Listening to the news today, the sheer intractability of the situation is heart breaking. This is a potent reminder of what’s in danger of being lost forever in Syria. Thank you for sharing it.

    5. Posted 5 June 2012 at 1:44 am | Permalink

      Since started my blog I have a monthly post calll stop and think and this month since I heard obout the Syrian children massacred i wanted to post something but with beauty i could not find the way to do it. After reading your comment in Bwy commenting options I had to stop by. And I foun your last post is about Syria,beautifully written and photographed.But my favorite is at end you mention Five months later all hell broke loose. Really you made my day beauty and reality.

      • Posted 5 June 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        And you mine Val. I just took a look at your site http://www.senseandgrace.com. The name says it all. I’ve just subscribed. My post doesn’t really fit the look and feel of your blog but feel free to reblog it if you wish. x Won’t be offended at all if you don’t 🙂

    6. Posted 5 June 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Oh Margaret, I can only image how much harder the news from Syria must be for you. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.

      • Posted 6 June 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        I was kind of hoping that it might help put a personal face on what’s going on over there atm. People are people are people.

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