1 May 2013


Allah, one of the 99 names of God.

What is going on in Syria, Iraq and Palestine at the moment is making me weep. I thank God that Hanna and I have visited Syria over a three year period before the current troubles began. When we first went in 2007, we were sometimes the only tourists in town, but by the time of our last visit in 2010, Damascus in particular had profited from the tourist trade and was upping its game to attract even more. To some extent I found it sad to follow countless groups of tourists processing up Straight Street for it had altered the atmosphere since our first visit there. 
When we travel, as I am not a sheep, we hire a car, I drive and Hanna always manages to find the best and most romantic of self catering accommodation. In this manner and with our limited Arabic we have toured practically the whole country, only leaving out the eastern desert area. We love ancient rubble and there is much to find going back to before the first century  but the lasting impression we have is of the friendlessness of the people wherever we went. 

A girl scout in an Orthodox Easter procession

Children were happy to see us wherever we went in Syria

A proud Muslim father presenting his son to be photographed

Pilgrims from Iran pleased to be photographed by us

A cute little girl in Homs who had been playing with a water hose

Bab Antakya the gate by which we entered and stayed in the Old City of Aleppo. The car stayed outside.

This minaret, built in 1090, part of the Great Mosque in Aleppo has now been totally destroyed!

The Great Mosque in Aleppo

A Friday discussion in the Great Mosque of Aleppo now badly damaged by the fighting

The Souk in Aleppo

Aleppo, once boasted the finest medieval Souk in the whole of the Mediterranean.

An Orthodox Priest in Damascus

An Orthodox Easter procession in Damascus

We discovered that Muslims both Shiites and Sunnis, Christian Maronites, and Orthodox Christians, all lived peacefully together. We were there once during Ramadan and later during the Orthodox Easter and took part in a fantastic procession through the Christian Quarter of Old Damascus. No matter the religion the people welcomed us with open arms and were pleased when we accepted their invitation to join them or to photograph them or their children.

The civil war in Lebanon lasted 17 years! The civil war in Syria has gone on too long already and no real thought has been given to its long term effects. Now we see ISIS establishing a Caliphat which stretches across the borders of Syria and Iraq. I have to say that I think that before the Russian invasion of Afghanistan the Sunnis, Shia, Jews and Christians in the countries in the whole of the Middle East lived in tolerance and friendship with each other for generations. I have witnessed the truth of this in Syria, Jordan and other Arab countries. So now they can't live together? So now some are saying that Sunnis and Shias have been enemies since over 1300 years? This hate is being manufactured and driven by other powers and fanatics and is a crime against humanity. Hate between these three great religions is not a product of the doctrine of these religions, for their real doctrine preaches tolerance and peace. The doctrine of hate is a product of man's making for his own devious ends and we should all do what we can to stop it spreading. I pray to God, Allah, Jehovah, call him what you will, that the countless friendly people from all religions I have met and photographed in Syria come out of this conflict safely and that one day they can go about their daily lives in peace again.