Peacetime Reflections: a Photo Journey Through the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria

Umayyad Mosque--Damascus, Syria

I took these photos of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, two years ago and am happy that I can share them with you now. I feel fortunate to have visited a mosque that’s so important in terms of history and religion. It was built around 700 AD and, according to many sources, is in the top 3 or 4 holiest sites of Islam in the world (after Mecca and Medina).

This 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 now–and to other Syrians around the world who are concerned about their family and friends back home. Although it’s a small contribution, I’m hoping that my posts–including this photo essay–can help keep the Syrian spirit alive in some way…

And now, a photographic journey through the mosque and back to a more peaceful time…

What It Was Like

I remember the day I went. It was in mid-June and the weather was quite hot. I planned to shop at the Souk, then to visit the mosque. They were next to each other and not far from where I was staying, so I walked there.

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

When I arrived, I saw Muslims preparing themselves–with their routine washing ritual–before going inside.

Outside Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

I recall having to remove my shoes and being given a scarf to wear. I put it on, then entered the area where the prayers were taking place and found myself in awe of the mosque’s beauty.

Inside Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Stained glass window, Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

As I walked around, I admired the architecture and I felt the history of the place. Because it was relatively silent, except for some movement and the echoes of people’s whispers, I felt calm and relaxed. It was nice to have some quiet time after being in the busy, noisy souk. It gave me a chance to reflect on my trip and the experiences I’d been having.

Chandelier, Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Inside Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

I eventually wandered into the walled courtyard and was greeted with a different scene. A more lively one. Young children were playing; others were running. And it didn’t matter. Families were together and where they wanted and needed to be. There was a sense of peace and contentment, and I was honored to see and feel it for the short time I was there.

And I found the reflections of the people on the floor to be beautiful–hence, all the photos of those types of scenes.

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Kids running, Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

This final photo is one of my absolute favorites from my time in Damascus.

Reflections on Umayyad Mosque, Damascus


What It’s Like Now

I tried to find out the current condition of the mosque. Unfortunately, searching Google didn’t reveal much. I’m assuming that it’s still intact–that it has not been damaged in the war. If anyone knows anything, please share in the comments and I’ll add it in here.

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Sadly, the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo has suffered significant damage. Regime forces trashed, defaced and burned it, according to many sources. To learn more, click here.

Your Thoughts…Reactions?

Have you ever visited a country that destabilized and ended up in a civil war not too long after you were there? If so, how do you feel about it? For me, Syria is the only one that falls into this category and I must say it’s sad–and surreal. It’s something I never imagined would happen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this photo journey and were able to feel some of the good vibes I felt at the mosque. As I prepared this post, I recalled the experience I had there and it felt good to reflect on it.

For a few moments, I forgot the reality of the present moment.

Let’s hope the war ends soon and that peace is restored to Syria so that its people can look forward…to the future.

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

18 Responses to Peacetime Reflections: a Photo Journey Through the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
  1. Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home
    December 16, 2012 | 10:13 pm

    Very beautiful places! So sad that so many beautiful places got destroyed because of war…
    Izy Berry – The Wrong Way Home recently posted..Travel Musings: The NowMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 17, 2012 | 11:00 pm

      Hi, Izy. It is sad that there’s been so much destruction in Syria. The other Omayyad Mosque, in Aleppo, is in pretty bad shape from what I’ve read. Fortunately, the one in the photos is OK.

  2. Anisha A Niche World
    December 18, 2012 | 3:47 am

    Lovely images of a stunning country. I would love to visit… If the troubles come to an end one day.

    • CB Driver
      December 19, 2012 | 1:42 pm

      Hi, Anisha. Thanks so much. Yes, Syria has a lot of beauty. I want to go back in the future when things are OK again. Let’s hope the war ends soon!

  3. nada faraj
    December 18, 2012 | 9:43 pm

    Umayyad mosque is built in 1200 p c . In the beginning, it was the holy place for the god of thunderstorm and rain.Then in 380 it become a temple of Jupiter,then turn to be a cathedral of saint the end it become a mosque .
    I didn’t wrote all this information just for knowledge, I want to tell you something about Syria that the Omayyad mosque is a part of Syria,it has been burn many times.but we always rebuilt it again and again better than before .Throw all the variation in the history,this beautiful mosque is remain a symbol of eternity,and therefor Syria will be built again.

  4. Hogga
    December 19, 2012 | 1:09 pm

    this is so beautiful

    • CB Driver
      December 19, 2012 | 1:31 pm

      Thanks, Lindsay! Actually, the mosque thanks you. :)

  5. Erik
    December 22, 2012 | 9:34 pm

    It’s a shame it’s been damaged, but I am sure, once the people of Syria have control of their country, they will restore it to it’s former glory.
    Erik recently posted..New Zealand- Chapter 22- From Taupo to Rotorua (pt.2)My Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 25, 2012 | 9:45 am

      Hi, Erik. Actually, this Omayyad is OK. It’s the one in Aleppo that’s been seriously damaged. Fortunately, the one in Damascus is OK. Still, the country has suffered so much destruction. Let’s hope things resolve soon!

  6. Puerto de Mogan Apartments
    December 24, 2012 | 11:49 pm

    The mosque looks so beautiful! I hope it is the same! Though I doubt it, the effects of war on it must have been disturbing!

    Thank you for sharing this with us! :)

  7. Maria
    December 28, 2012 | 7:50 pm

    These photos are delicious! Reading through the comments I love the history Nada Faraj offers and then I scrolled back through the photos, again and again.
    Maria recently posted..Head TiltMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      December 31, 2012 | 9:13 am

      Thank you, Maria! PS: Nada was one of my students this past semester. She owns a home in Damascus, which is inhabited by 20 homeless people or so at the moment.

  8. Maria
    December 31, 2012 | 9:48 am

    Nada was your student? That makes the story and her comment richer. Whoa! 20 people? I don’t relish even one roommate and top it off with her being so generous and caring. This is really good food for thought as we roll into 2013.
    Maria recently posted..Head TiltMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      January 1, 2013 | 12:38 pm

      Yes, she was–and believe it not, her level is intermediate! She’s doing very well. Right now, her husband and father, I think, are living in that house in Damascus with the other folks. Another former student of mine has the same situation in Aleppo.

      People over there and in so many countries are so generous, aren’t they? Blows my mind.

  9. Maria
    January 1, 2013 | 2:59 pm

    Do you think it’s cultural or just a personality trait of some people? Outside of my mother, no one in my family would be so generous but I do have a handful of friends (no familial ties) who have ‘saved’ me a time or two. So what is it, genetic or learned behavior?
    Maria recently posted..Soul TemptingMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      January 1, 2013 | 3:38 pm

      Great question! I think it’s mostly cultural. My mom, like yours, would take someone in. And I think I might, as well as a couple of my friends. Mostly, however, Americans don’t do that sort of thing. Of course, we haven’t haven’t experienced the same kind of tragic events as people in other countries.

      Overall, though, I would say it’s cultural and a learned behavior.

  10. Ivana
    November 29, 2013 | 5:08 am

    It had to be a beautiful experience :)
    Am happy for all travellers who take their courage and go to the places that are not the top spots of travel lists of majority people on the road :)
    Ivana recently posted..12 Lessons Learnt After One Month Travelling in ThailandMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      November 30, 2013 | 5:44 pm

      Hi, Ivana. Walking through the mosque was a special experience–definitely. And thanks for what you said re: deviating from the usual tourist spots. Appreciate that! It’s not always easy, but it is rewarding.

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