Remembering Syria: What It Was Like Before the War

Street Scene, Aleppo

Syria, a country I was fortunate to travel to in 2010, has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m sad about what’s going on there…worried about the people I met and their loved ones, as well as the general population. Like everyone else, I’m wondering when the hellish civil war is finally going to end.

Statue of Saladin, Damascus, Syria

Statue of Saladin, Damascus

A Special Bond with My Syrian Students

I teach ESL at a 2-year college in New Jersey, so I’ve had many Syrian students over the years (which partially explains why I traveled there). Current and former ones have been coming to my office and telling me about how their friends and families have been suffering. Many of the stories are horrific and are usually accompanied by tears.

One woman’s husband and father are in Damascus and all she wants is for them to be able to escape. Another student said there are 20 people, friends and family who lost their homes, living in her house near Aleppo. Others tell me about family members who have been killed or who have ‘disappeared.’

Street Scene, Aleppo

And I feel quite shaken up about it all. I’ve never been to a country that was peaceful and safe that destabilized months later. It’s surreal. Despite the special connection I have with my students, I can’t truly imagine how they feel. All I can do is listen, sympathize, and tell them how much I liked their country, with its kind people and incredibly rich history. And together, we discuss our hope for when the war is over–that the citizens can recover and rebuild as quickly as possible.

But they know and I know that it will take a very long time.

Roman gate near Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria

As you can see, there are a few reasons why Syria holds a special place in my heart. When I first started this blog, the first post I wrote was about Syria. Over the next few months (during which time the war will hopefully end)—and beyond—I’m going to share the photos I never got around to posting when I started this blog. I may also write mini stories about the people I met, too, and put it all together into a series (or just post randomly).

Keeping the Syrian Spirit Alive

While I think that living in the moment is ideal, I also believe there is positive energy in the past that one can tap into to find strength in the present and future. My plan to write about the country again, whether it’s a series or not, is a small contribution, but I hope that doing so can help keep the Syrian spirit alive in some way. At the very least, I’d like for my students to benefit by seeing some positive images of their country.

Stained Glass Windows inside the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Stained Glass Windows inside the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Your Thoughts/Feedback

Would you be most interested in seeing photos of places, people or both? Are you interested in learning about my encounters with the everyday people and what they were like? Anything else you’re curious about?

Do you think I should make this a real series with an actual name like ‘Remembering Syria’? Or should I just keep it informal and simply post as part of other categories I already have, such as Random Travel Moments and Photo of the Day, and then link back to this post as the background/explanation?

Next part of the series: Peacetime Reflections: a Photo Journey Through the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus.

15 Responses to Remembering Syria: What It Was Like Before the War
  1. Erik
    December 9, 2012 | 8:53 pm

    Great piece. You are certainly not the first person to talk about how wonderful Syria and the Syrians are. Let’s hope they find peace and prosperity soon.
    Erik recently posted..Photo Essay- Lake Taupo aboard the BarbaryMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 11, 2012 | 10:17 am

      Thanks, Erik. Let’s keep our fingers crossed…the people were really sweet and welcoming and I wish the suffering would finally end.

  2. Michael Hodson
    December 11, 2012 | 8:38 am

    Love that country… and my little haircut dude in Damascus. So sad.
    Michael Hodson recently posted..Living Like Bond, James BondMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 11, 2012 | 10:16 am

      Hi, Michael…it was easy to love, wasn’t it? All the history, the friendly people, etc. As for Adnan (?), he was a sweetheart. I may write a mini story about how he invited me inside a few times and we tried to chat with the little Arabic I knew and the fact that we connected anyway…I hope he’s still there and OK.

  3. Leektone
    December 11, 2012 | 9:08 am

    What a terrible tragedy in Syria. I visited that country many years ago and, although I remember a lot of poverty, the place was also alive with a great spirit of people eating and enjoying life. I hope that this conflict will be over soon and people can rebuild their lives.

    • CB Driver
      December 11, 2012 | 10:14 am

      Glad that you also felt the spirit of the people…I’m sure it’s still there beneath the suffering. Hopefully, the war will end soon and things will improve.

  4. Limo VIP Bus
    December 14, 2012 | 7:36 am

    Great article.
    I’m sure all will still go back.
    Let’s just pray and think positive about it.

  5. Traveling Ted
    December 18, 2012 | 10:04 pm

    I never knew much about Syria and always thought it was kind of a crazy place until I read the Pillar of Hercules by Paul Theroux. He spoke very kindly of the Syrian people he met. It surprised me because Theroux does not hold back, and I thought he was going to tell some strange wacky tales about crazy Syrians, but it was the exact opposite.

    This post confirms that. Very sad that a country with kind people are going through such horrors. I hope they find peace and someday I can come and visit a stable country.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Anaconda envy in the Iwokrama Rainforest, GuyanaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 19, 2012 | 1:35 pm

      Hi, Ted. I’ve read one or two of Paul T’s books, but not that one. Perhaps I’ll check it out. Glad we’re on the same page re: the warmth and kindness of the people. Soon, I’ll be posting about some of the people I met and that will further confirm it.

      Meanwhile, the war rages on. I’m hoping the same as you–that there’s peace soon. I also hope that once it’s rebuilt, etc, you get to visit–and that I get to revisit.

  6. Laura
    December 26, 2012 | 9:49 pm

    Great post! I really wish the Middle East in general would stop fighting because I would love to be able to visit all the countries there. I love the culture and the food. It really is a shame, they could really benefit from tourism. Hopefully it ends soon.

    • CB Driver
      December 27, 2012 | 9:41 am

      Thanks, Laura. I wish things would calm down over there, too. The people were really nice–so helpful–and there is so much to see as a tourist. Food is amazing.

      Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the war ends and people get their lives back. Then maybe, in a few years, you’ll get to go and I’ll get to return!

  7. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures
    January 13, 2013 | 4:46 pm

    I can’t even fathom what it’s like there these days and to know people who have relatives suffering is just an awful feeling! I also know how troubling it is to have a place that you’ve visited fall upon hard times. To think that people you met along the way who live in those places may be under some really difficult and dangerous circumstances is really troubling.
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Leaving Tel Aviv: My Experience Through Airport Security at Ben GurionMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      January 13, 2013 | 9:23 pm

      Yes, it is an awful feeling and I do wonder about the people I met. Hope they’re OK. I may be writing about a few of them–mini stores–as part of the series. I hope things resolve there soon!

  8. […] post, by the way, is part of a new series called Remembering Syria: What It Was Like Before the War. I’m dedicating it to the people of Syria–those struggling and suffering there right […]

  9. […] Remembering Syria Before the War […]

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