I visited Syria in 2001 and 2004. Beautiful country with warm, friendly people. It wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. Even if you went there without knowing it was an authoritarian police state with a history of brutal crackdowns by Hafez Assad, you probably would have been able to surmise that the omnipresent Assad family photos and billboards suggested a regime that intended to cling to power by keeping a close eye on everyone.
Authoritarian leaders aside, it was a great place to visit. It has a rich history, and I can’t remember having met any Syrians who weren’t friendly and welcoming. I was lucky to have been able to visit areas throughout the country. I hate thinking about what the Syrians have been going through since 2011, and I worry that the destruction of many of their cultural sites will make an eventual recovery that much more difficult.
I’ve very slowly been scanning photos here and there from those visits. I think I was using a Nikon 8008S during both trips. Today I came across a few photos of the Bakdash ice cream parlor in the al-Hamidiyah Souq (my Arabic is rusty – should that be Souq al-Hamidiyah?). They brought back good memories. I remember that it was packed with families getting the stretchy ice cream in the heat of a Syrian summer. There would have also been several men walking around selling juice. It’s been a long time, but I think most of them carried the juice in large containers on their backs and poured out servings in metal cups. I can be a little bit of a germaphobe, so I always declined. The quick rinse out of the metal cups just didn’t do the trick for me.
I can’t remember if these photos are from 2001 or 2004. I think they would have been from 2004. The backs of the photos do not have a date on them. It doesn’t really matter. I just hope that the Bakdash ice cream parlor is still serving war-weary Syrians ice cream on hot days. Here’s a description of the parlor from Wikipedia:
Extras: I can’t remember if I got the film developed in Syria or just carried it with me until I returned to Istanbul (if 2001) or New York City (if 2004). It’s been a long time since I’ve shot film for an extended period not knowing whether anything would turn out.