What Do You Know About Syria

What Do You Know About Syria

So tell me:

It’s been five years of a brutal war and almost every day the international media has carried some Syrian related story, from revolution to refugee and while most of Europe is now cowering under its bed in fear what can you really tell me about Syria and its brutalized population?

For a future blog post I would like to try and paint a picture of Syria before the war but with your help and contribution:

Did you have the chance to visit Syria?

Are you Syrian or have friends and family who have or are living there?

What do you think Syria was like as a country before the conflict?

Do you know where it is?

Please post your thoughts, your questions and experiences, I would like to avoid turning this is into another place of conflict so let’s not get bogged down in the political whys and wherefores, for those wishing for more in depth information on any such issues I am happy to provide links and sources so just drop me a line.

My  Damascus Diary blog posts offer some insights and I promise to update and organize this more professionally shortly:

Meet The Syrians is also an ongoing project that will introduce some of my Syrian friends:

Looking forward to your contributions.


Syrian school children
Syrian school children

42 thoughts on “What Do You Know About Syria

  1. I must confess….not much. Civil war…Sunni, Shia, Islamic State…war crimes…chemical weapons…millions of refugees….and always the innocent dying… I have not visited Syria, nor do I have family or friends there. I do know where it is. I remember looking “into” Syria when I visited Israel a few years ago.

  2. I know where it is, but I’ve never been there. If I were to read a piece about Syria before the war, I would like to know (and see…) what it looked like. I want to know about the people and how they liked to spend their days, the kinds of foods they eat, the fragrances. I want to know what the sun looked like as it shined on neighborhoods in the early morning. I would love to learn about things that were/are important to Syrian people, like their beliefs, how they worship and nourish themselves spiritually. Daily life, routines and maybe fun, quirky things. Things that were joyful and happy. That’s what I would like to read. Because we have enough bad stuff in the world right now. I want to know about the good.

  3. I lived in the region from 1989-96 returning in Feb. 2003. I would usually travel by car from Amman on the Highway, boring road but it was fast and better than flying in, such a short distance. If the presence of Iranians in Damascus was not apparent in 1996 by 2003 they were very obvious by the number of tourists and residents.
    So I knew Syria under Hafez and then his son Bashar. I found Syria, quiet if not a little boring and Damascus always trying to play the big town to Cairo which to me was always more interesting to live in.
    I enjoyed the old city and the carpet merchants where I bought most of my carpets. The good restaurants and the chaotic disorganized state of everything. The people were very nice though always cowed by the Regime. I had a profound dislike for the Regime and the mediocrity it created all around. Contrary to a lot of people I never believed Bashar would implement any type of reforms or be the friend of transparency and democracy. My question today is more about what ever happened to all the Syrians I knew.

  4. we went to Syria once only in the year 2000. It was a cruise stop and we had just one day there. We loved it, and often thought about going back, but left it too late. We often wonder about some of the lovely people we met.
    We docked at Tartous. We had been given the choice out of three excursions for that day. We had elected to visit Krak des Chevaliers, that wonderful Crusader castle which I think was discovered by T.E.Lawrence when he was a student. This was a wonderful trip. We had the place to ourselves as I remember. There were no information boards, just our guide to show us around, so very atmospheric
    I don’t know what has happened to Krak during the war. I hope it has survived
    Also available as alternatives were Palmyra which would have been marvelous too, and now too late of course. One could have gone to Damascus and stayed overnight, and then journeyed next day by coach to Baalbek in Lebanon, which was our next site to visit. We are glad we didn’t do that, as their coach was delayed and that party missed Baalbek which is another wonderful must see. We rejoined the ship and sailed to Beirut and thence to Baalbek
    To come back to Syria, our guide was a delightful young woman. She was a Christian and wore the Christian symbol, the cross around her neck. We talked about religion, and she told us that in Syria there was complete freedom of worship for all religions. That was under Assad Senior as I remember. That is the paradox, of course, that under a dictator there is freedom of worship, unlike the terrible persecutions that are taking place in the areas controlled by IS.
    At the end of the day, we were waiting in the dockland area waiting to be taken back to our ship. The area looked a little rough, and our guide sensed we were a little apprehensive.
    “Don’t worry” she said “you are safer here than in New York or London” We often think of her and hope that nothing horrible happened to her
    Not much but I hope it helped

  5. Pingback: What Do You Know About Syria | Translature

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  7. eyeonturkeyblog

    What do I know about Syria? I know that when I visited there before the war I was so impressed with Damascus and Aleppo that I wanted to live there. I was living in Istanbul at the time and fell in love with the people and the place. The food was amazing. This is why I find the conflict in Syria to be so absolutely tragic. Aleppo was one of the most amazing cities that had ever visited. The view of the city from atop the old citadel is astonishing. Now the ancient citadel is badly damaged from the war. The old city in Aleppo used to be the oldest in-tact city in the world. It is now in ruins. The world needs to bring a lot of love to Syria after this war ends and restore the many ancient sites that were protected by the government before the war. After the war bring your love and money to Syria. You will be paid back a thousand-fold by your experience with its people and its rich historical landscape….

  8. hoppernomad

    Great pictures, John. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Syria in 2001 and 2004. Beautiful country with very friendly people. Amazing history around every corner. Let’s hope things improve for them soon.

  9. Hi John, What I know of Syria is what I have heard from and read about the Syrian refugees who have arrived on the island of Lesvos, where I have been working for several weeks, They have lost their homes and families. They have witnessed the destruction of their communities and culture. They have braved dangerous seas, abusive smugglers and Turkish authorities, and now the uncertainties of an immoral agreement between Europe and the Turkish government. They are living with hunger, pain and discomfort. And yet every one of those I have come into contact with is kind and polite and grateful. It has been a great privilege to have been a part of the relief efforts in Greece because of what I have learned from the refugees about what is important in life.

    Thank you for your continuing efforts.

  10. A very nice idea indeed!
    So, my “contribution”:
    I was i Apamee in 2002 working with Belgian archaeologists.
    Families in the local village ate mainly aubergine-based dishes. Always healthy and tasty!
    Almost as tasty as the tea I was invited to by workmen repairing an old home, strolling in Damascus. We would laugh with my Sudanese Arabic.
    And I would try to compare how they threw ashes from their cigarettes while the bus was driving, with the way it was done from a 4×4 in Sudan.
    “But let’s not talk politics, please! Have you seen how big ears are there in this country?”
    And we laughed again…

  11. i know nothing about the country only that, here in Canada, would be like living in a dream to those whom met with harden times in Syria!

    i also see that you stopped by for a read..

    Thank you,


  12. Thanks for the like – and for introducing me to your blog, which I found especially interesting as I have friends who are former asylum seekers from Syria. Thanks.

  13. all I know about Syria is what I know about 3 Syrians, friends and colleagues of mine. I see their fear for their families, their pain at what is happening to their country, and their determination to rebuild everything as soon as they get the chance.

  14. celiavpowell

    My parents were lucky enough to go to Syria for their honeymoon in the 1980s before things turned sour….They managed to bring some unique souvenirs home and some photographs but nothing that will help them to truly grasp the memories of what they saw, smelt and touched.
    Sadly, when the brutal conflict broke out it left my parents both heartbroken and seeing places that they had visited completely destroyed forever left them with a sickening feeling in their stomachs. I know this for fact because the way they described their honeymoon to me and the people they met has also left me with the same sickening feeling….

  15. kanadiskeutlandet

    Hey John,
    Thank you for visiting my blog! It introduced me to yours.
    And I’m happy to have discovered it.
    To answer your question, I’m ashamed to admit I do not know much about Syria.
    The information I have of it, comes from the news and they paint a distressful picture.
    I wish to learn more, as I am teaching English to Syrian refugees here in Norway, (I’ll soon write about it . )and your blog is very helpful for that.

    Thanks again for liking my article.


  16. I have wonderful memories of Damascus before the war – I wanted to write about them too. It makes me miserable to see it on the news. I can’t imagine how the Syrians feel.

  17. When I lived and worked in Turkey in the late 1990s we took a very long bus journey to Syria for a holiday. We travelled around for 2 weeks – Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Palmyra, Latakia etc. The people we met were unfailing kind and generous. Some spoke English, some didn’t, but my (very) rudimentary Arabic helped us get by and share stories. I remember how friendly people were and how the falafel seller and juice man were always trying to give two skinny English teachers free sandwiches and drinks to fatten us up. I wanted to go back to live and work there, but life took a different turn. What has been done to the people in Syria and across the east Mediterranean is horrific. My heart goes out to all of those killed and injured, those forced from their homes, those who live under occupation. I am ashamed that I live in a country that will not open its doors to people and to give them respite in their hour of need.

    Lovely blog, I look forward to reading more.

  18. AirGap Anonymity Collective

    Reblogged this on Anonymous Chronic and commented:
    It’s been five years of a brutal war and almost every day the international media has carried some Syrian related story, from revolution to refugee and while most of Europe is now cowering under its bed in fear what can you really tell me about Syria and its brutalized population? For a future blog post I would like to try and paint a picture of Syria before the war but with your help and contribution.

  19. Maybe this is late, but… Up until the last few years I knew little about Syria except the ancient history from Biblical times, that they’re connected with Hezbollah, that there’s a controversy over the Golan Heights, that there was a good Syrian restaurant near where I used to live, and that I had a very tasty jar of crushed pepper flakes from Aleppo. The closest I’ve ever been to Syria is the UK. Due to past conflicts with Israel and ongoing tensions I didn’t have a positive view of the country, at least politically. In the last few years I’ve learned that it is (or was?) a surprisingly beautiful country with a lot of positive things to be said about the people. Hopefully that doesn’t end and there’s something left when this is over.

  20. Noor

    I was born and raised in Syria from a Syrian father and mother and i lived there for 15 years, i never left Syria or traveled abroad, not until the war started .. we then came to Egypt in 2012 .. i still live in Egypt till this day, i was born in Damascus and i lived in Sahat al Mayasat it is a beautiful place and it still is till this day thank god .. every summer we traveled so mum could see her family in Banyas where my mum was born and lived there for 30 years ..Banyas is a city on the Mediterranean sea close to Latakia .. about 3 hours away from Damascus ..by a car or bus ..Banyas is a very small country that even my friends back in school .. never heard of it …people there are too friendly to exist i swear .. the population back then was so little and the prices were extremely cheap .. we used to buy falafel for basically nothing then go and eat them on our balcony overlooking the sea around 11 am after taking a lovely 6 am walk by the beach .. me, my parents and my older sister.. some of my mum’s family still live there.. it isn’t anything like old days life ..but we still talk to them and they’re doing fine .. i spent my childhood as well in or farm..it still exists in a place called Darraa about an hour and half away from Damascus .. in the farm we had a lot of birds, rabbits, and dogs , i remember the whole family gathering for barbecue and jumping in the swimming pool, kids playing around, i used to be one of them falling off my bike and creating adventurous in my mind around the farm with the rest of the kids in my big big family.. i remember my big family laying under the sky at night .. looking at the shiny endless stars .. i don’t see such thing in cairo .. i barely see any stars at night .. back then we used to sit on a mat Called haseera ..in the balcony in the villa of our farm .. and eat warm white cheese with syrian read and watermelon.. we barely watched tv we just sat there and laughed and talked until the morning light .. we even sometimes went for another round of swimming late at night .. i just loved swimming in the pool in the dark with its lights on .. baby blue kinda clear water .. playing basket-ball and badminton with my family as well .. so so many memories .. this was my vacation for 15 years .. all of my family now are in Germany, Brazil, Holland, UK, some still in Damascus, i don’t have anyone in my family who died cuz of war thank god .. but i do have far relatives who lost their apartments … my family came to Egypt for extra safety and happiness.. life in Damascus is possible but it there are difficulties in many things .. i went bk there 2 yrs ago and i although everything look the same, nothing feels the same, i felt the sadness in the hearts of everyone i walked by in the streets, i didn’t see Banyas in 6 yrs tho, my hope is to go there in July with my parents and my sister in hopes of living my childhood memories just one more time.. sorry if i talked too much, but this is only a very small thing to talk about how peaceful the life was for Syrians 7 years ago.

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