The First Bombs in Damascus

I never bought vegetables from his shop, I’d pass by several times a day and would always say hello, always promising myself to buy something from him one day, I never did, there were lots of similar shops and some even closer to my house. Did he mind I often wondered?

Those first days of the war in Damascus were the scariest, we knew it was coming, sometimes we were anxious, other times it seemed it could never happen on such a beautiful day, then almost overnight it arrived, all the shops closed and the streets emptied, gunfire filled the night sky and small mortar bombs landed in the narrow streets around my house, nobody came to collect the rubbish.

The shock and adjustment took a few days to sink in, the kids came out and collected the rubbish, shops were re-stocked and open again, life slowly emerged from behind the gated houses, the war continued but we adjusted, money had to be earned and food had to be put on the table.

The little vegetable shop though stayed shuttered, I walked past often expecting to see him sitting in the patch of sun on the other side of the alley, his pot of tea and cigarettes on a little wooden table.

The old man died under the first bombs, I never knew his name and never bought vegetables from his shop.

IMG_0170cfcvbt
Syrian school children walk past the old mans shop, Damascus 2012.

I lived in Damascus ten years until I was forced to leave my house in the summer of 2013, now in Istanbul I am sharing some of my memories.

More from my Damascus diary; Do You Have Any Weapons Asked the Syrian Officer?

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14 thoughts on “The First Bombs in Damascus

  1. Nice piece.
    I always wanted to live in Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city… made it to live in North Africa, but by then the Syrian thing was underway. It underscores how important it is to experience things when we can. At least I can see Damascus through your eyes, now. Thanks much

  2. Hi John
    As usual your Syrian memories are both enriching and sad for me. If I have to be honest, one of the things that surprised me the most of this post was your phrase “no one came to collect the rubbish”. I’ve never seen war, or unrest. I’ve never seen an urbane, sophisticated human ecosystem going to the pits as quickly as Syria’s did. In fact, come think of it, I’d be as surprised you all were to see the rubbish piling up. It’s an image that really struck me.

    Thanks

    Fabrizio

  3. Hi John. I just found your blog and found it really interesting. I always wanted to come to Damascus after seeing some pictures I saw before war began. I kept postponing and at the end, I never got chance to travel there. Well, now, I am not sure when I can come to see how the country is. Even If I have chance in the future, that must not be Damascus that I always wanted to visit in the past. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Regards from Istanbul.

  4. Wow, what a beautiful thing that you shared this memory and in your own way have honored this unknown man’s life – that he was noticed and mattered and missed. So sorry you endured that and all the sadness of violence.

  5. Very powerful – thank you for sharing your stories, for keeping a memory of this old man and his shop alive and for reminding us of the everyday horrors of war.

  6. Reblogged this on AirGap Anonymity Collective and commented:
    Those first days of the war in Damascus were the scariest. The little vegetable shop though stayed shuttered, I walked past often expecting to see him sitting in the patch of sun on the other side of the alley, his pot of tea and cigarettes on a little wooden table. The old man died under the first bombs, I never knew his name and never bought vegetables from his shop.

  7. You have perfectly described the impact of war on ordinary people, so very sad, unnecessary, futile – “Those first days of the war in Damascus were the scariest. The little vegetable shop though stayed shuttered, I walked past often expecting to see him sitting in the patch of sun on the other side of the alley, his pot of tea and cigarettes on a little wooden table. The old man died under the first bombs, I never knew his name and never bought vegetables from his shop.”

  8. Wow, you incredibly talented man. Very thankful that you linked through my blog, your entries are incredibly well written and your photography has left me speechless.
    Thank you!

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