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A – Z Guidebook: Damascus, Syria

Welcome to the A-Z Guidebook Link Up. If you would like to join, read the A-Z Guidebook tab at the top of the blog and write a travel post relating to the letter of the month.

*For those who know me well, they would tell you that I had this blog post planned and written for some months. Well before the recent incidents on that Turkish beach and in Hungary. The post is not meant to be sensationalist or to ride on the coat tails of current events. This is simply a post about a lovely moment I experienced whilst travelling in Syria.

Thanks to all the bloggers who have been joining in. Try to take the time to visit some of the other blogs and see what others have to share. This month:

D or Drive

Syria has (had?) one of the grandest bazaars of them all. Al-Hamidiyah Souq is located in the walled old city centre of Damascus, generally considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.

The desire to visit famed Bakdash Ice Cream Salon in Damascus was the trigger to organise an entire holiday through the Middle East. The main arcade in the souq is covered with an enormous vaulted iron ceiling. Beautifully ornate, it has rusted away in places, allowing the sunlight to stream in via pin prick holes. Shops in the main arcade are highly prized due to the number tourists that pass through on their way to the adjoining Citadel. This is reflected in the type of goods on offer which are targeted at visitors rather than locals.

A series of alleys fan out from the main arcade and it is these alleys that are the real heart and soul Al-Hamidiyah. There is the spice souq, gold souq, an area for ironmongers and one for carpenters, several hammams including one founded in the 12th century, tea and coffee houses. As you walk in deeper, the crowds thin and the noise reduces. This is where people live, laundry hanging from lines drilled into the ancient walls, DIY brickwork, grandmothers sitting on front steps enjoying the sun like they do the world over. As I wandered along, admiring the heavy wooden doors and wondering if anyone had heard of a building code, I spotted this pair.

Syria, Damascus - local school schildren

On their way to school for the afternoon after returning home for lunch, this young boy was protectively holding the hand of his little sister as he led her along the laneways. They wore the requisite dust coat that every school child in Syria has, to protect their street clothes from wear and tear. Giving a shy ‘hello’ to me as I passed them, I turned to ask if I could take their photo. They smiled, nodded and posed. I took the shot and then shared it with them on the screen. The light was wrong with the sun behind them but this is one of my most treasured photos of my trip to Syria. Another quick smile, they continued on their way and I did the same. Not long after I took this photo, the civil war began. I think of these children often. As I write this piece, I have a heavy heart. What has happened to them? Did they survive the conflict? Are they safe or in a refugee camp or, did they die? I’ll never know the answer of course but I hope for the best and am glad I had the opportunity to share a moment with them.

Another favourite photo from Al-Hamidiyah that I have used often on my blog is of a gentleman sitting in the middle of an alley in the spice souk, carefully sorting walnuts. Sticking to the A-Z Guidebook one photo rule, I couldn’t include it in this post but using ‘organiser’s prerogative’, if you’d like to take a look, it’s at the bottom of this post.

A-Z Guidebook Badge

[inlinkz_linkup id=524442 mode=1]

14 comments… add one
  • Maria September 15, 2015, 8:07 am

    This is a beautiful memory Fiona, and what a charming photo. It’s devastating to think what is happening there now.

    • Fiona Ryan September 16, 2015, 9:34 pm

      Thanks Maria. I really struggle with the Syria conflict in particular as I have so many fantastic memories from there.

  • Jan Rhoades September 15, 2015, 8:48 am

    A delightful post Fiona. Happy memories of a now war-torn country. Sad times indeed.

    • Fiona Ryan September 16, 2015, 9:35 pm

      Thanks. It was an unusual choice at the time and probably somewhere none of us will be able to visit again in our lifetime.

  • sherry from sherrys pickings September 15, 2015, 11:19 am

    aren’t they gorgeous? and it is so sad about Syria. i know how terrible it is about the refugees and i know we need to help, but i just wonder why the pollies aren’t doing something about the root troubles so people don’t have to flee their own country? it’s like my dentist says, prevention is better than cure:)
    thanks for hosting.!

    • Fiona Ryan September 16, 2015, 9:36 pm

      They are truly delightful. Thanks for joining in.

  • Emily (Cooking for Kishore) September 16, 2015, 8:28 am

    Sad what is going on there now, hoping for the best for these siblings. It really is a great, thought provoking shot Fiona. Thanks for hosting again this month.

    • Fiona Ryan September 16, 2015, 9:37 pm

      I’m glad so many people have enjoyed this spur of the moment photo. Thanks for joining in.

  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime September 18, 2015, 6:20 pm

    At least you have memories of a great Syria. Sadly I think it will be like Lebanon and totally destroyed.

    • Fiona Ryan September 23, 2015, 5:06 pm

      Agreed Tandy – nothing will be left including people at this rate. And to think, a plan to visit Backdash Ice Cream sparked the whole trip!

  • Leanne September 19, 2015, 7:25 pm

    A beautiful photo. Hopefully they are safe and well

    • Fiona Ryan September 23, 2015, 5:37 pm

      Let’s hope Leanne. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Stuart September 21, 2015, 5:25 pm

    A beautiful post, and a reminder to be aware that life can be distinctly unfair, or worse, for the people in the places we travellers have the privilege of visiting.

    • Fiona Ryan September 23, 2015, 5:07 pm

      Thanks Stuart. It’s heart breaking and certainly a reminder how lucky we are in Australia.

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