I have been extremely lucky to have been to Syria. Back in March of 2011, just weeks before the conflict really began, my sister, aunt, parents and grandparents and I packed into a little mini tour bus and travelled around this beautiful country for two weeks. We ate lots of hummus, flat bread, lamb and tabouleh. We saw so much of this wonderful country and it was one of the first times I really took photos while travelling.
Every time I look back at the photos from this trip, I am reminded how absolutely stunning Syria was. Unlike the usual travel guide, this post is all about remembering Syria.
I remember staying in the most luxurious boutique hotels I’ve ever been in. Its courtyard was stunning and the four-poster red beds in the rooms were so soft and comfortable.
I remember visiting a mosque near the market. We put on robes and took off our shoes, and the marble floors were cool because it was still winter. I remember the warmth of the sun warming us up.
I remember seeing the spices and all the lovely stores in the market.
I remember the cup of coffee my parents had – how thick and strong it looked and that was my first introduction to Middle Eastern-style coffee, similar to what I saw years later in Turkey.
I remember driving to Krak des Chevaliers, a beautiful castle/fort at the top of a hill. I remember not taking a spare camera battery with me when I left the bus and regretted this. I remember this being the site of a movie. Walking up through the castle and how beautiful it was. I remember loving the bricks and the patterns they made.
I remember stopping at some beautiful Roman ruins, at sunset. We took photos of each other and some of the locals joined in. We waved to a local sheep farmer as we left. I don’t remember the name of this place, but it was definitely a highlight of our trip.
I remember visiting the mosque and putting on purple robes.
I remember how beautiful the ruins of Palmyra were. We took photos of each other. The tall Greek and Roman columns towered above us. I remember walking around and enjoying the desert.
I remember my dad buying the Middle Eastern headdress and a man tying it for him. He bought coffee from a nearby van after.
I remember walking around the town and hearing everyone constantly using their car horn for the most unnecessary of situations. My dad said people even horned when they first got into their cars to check if it was working.
I remember the cherry blossom trees we stopped to admire. We posed in them and I remember taking so many photos there.
I remember the beautiful wildflowers we saw along our journey. They were colourful and I could never help myself but to stop and admire them.
I remember Saladin’s Castle. It was a long drive up into the hills and the castle was perched on so steeply. I remember taking more photos of bricks and looking down to the road below when we got up to the top.
I remember walking up to the citadel with my grandfather, dad and aunt because the rest of our family wasn’t feeling well. I remember the beautiful ornate doors, the roofs of the hammam and the view of the city. I remember looking out and seeing what looked like a protest. I remember that made us nervous and our guide told us not to worry and that all was safe here in Syria.
I remember riding a camel for the first time. I got scared when it stood up. My sister and I rode around through the ruins. My aunt met Casanova the Camel and Casanova II, the camel trainer. He wanted to whisk her away at sunset.
I remember the Palmyra citadel and how beautiful it looked at sunset. I remember hearing a British backpacker telling his friend about all the places he has been and where he was headed next. I wanted to do what he was doing. I still do.
I remember visiting the amphitheatre not far from Damascus. We could stand on the stage and anyone from the top could hear us clearly. I remember my parents posing for silly pictures here.
I remember seeing Whirling Dervishes at dinner on our last night in Syria. It was surreal and spiritual.
I remember going to a beautiful market that was hustling and bustling and filled with people just trying to get through everyday life. I remember trying pistachio ice cream. I remember our guide telling us that Damascus was the longest inhabited city.
I remember walking past stores that looked like they were filled with junk, but remembering how beautiful it all looked.
I remember my dad teaching me some simple things about photography – light, composition, balance. It was only the third trip that I had my camera with me, and Syria helped me fall more in love with photography.
I remember having lunch at a restaurant with a view of this beautiful castle. We constantly ate pita bread, grilled meat and tabouleh salad. That’s all I remember eating when we were there. Our choice was either chicken, beef or mixed grill. We had chips at a few places and that was always a treat.
We made our way to Homs, and I remember the beautiful water wheel, and how bright and sunny it was. I remember the reflection the wheel made on the water and how amazing the photos looked.
I remember arriving at the hotel in Aleppo and exploring the town at sunset. We made our way up the rooftop that night to get a view of the city. It was stunning and we could see the citadel in the distance.
I remember seeing ruins at sunset with beautiful views.
I remember going past signs that pointed towards Baghdad. I remember stopping at the Baghdad cafe for lunch. The man who worked there dressed us up in the traditional dress.