Syria April, 2008
I am returned from a very un-solo trip to Syria, a country labeled a 'state sponsor of terror' by the US administration. It did not feel like that as we walked unmolested late at night through the streets of Damascus, or met with scores of teenage girls in Maloula, mingled with thousands of schoolchildren in Bosra, went shopping in Palmyra and had a private visit of the citadel in Aleppo. Just for good measure we met with Dr. Mohammed Habash, a member of the Syrian parliament and General Director of the Islamic Studies Center in Damascus http://altajdeed.org/en/.
He gave us a very frank talk touching on subjects as diverse as the US invasion of Iraq, the historic link with and involvement of Syria in Lebanon, reformist and conservative Islam, the evolution of the Shia/Sunni divide and the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli crisis with its attendant rise in militant extremism there and elsewhere.
We began our tour of the country by driving north. Krak des Chevaliers - supreme expression of medieval castle-building - had a moat again, the first time I have ever seen it.
Reflected blue moat of Krak des Chevaliers abutting its infamous steep glacis.
Hama sits on the banks of the river Orontes; at dusk swallows flitted and darted in and out of the city's ancient eaves, and its waterwheels glowed amber in the floodlights, while in the morning a barrage of twittering avian exuberance filled the yellow limestone and black basalt paved courtyard of the hauntingly lovely Azem Palace – smaller but more refined than its sister palace in Damascus.
The waterwheels or norias at night.
The highly-decorated windows of Azem Palace in Hama.