Syria 2023

Crossing the border into Syria we are met with numerous placards of the President Bashar Al Assad, the roads that we travel on through the country are all government controlled, the clients on this trip comment at the end on how friendly the guards at the few checkpoints are, welcoming everyone into Syria, ahlan w sahlan…

A lady on my last trip gazed upon the destruction caused during the crisis, the state of the town, in Palmyra and Aleppo, she had tears in her eyes wondering why no one intervened and at the same time overwhelmed by the kindness and grace of the locals we interacted with, of which there were many.

People are struggling under the sanctions here, the rise in prices of food, the lack of fuel and the lack of power in the cities (Except the café / Bedouin tent in Palmyra, the only place that has power!) but yet all look hopeful when they see us tourists walk through the souqs that are being rebuilt and when we visit the old Aleppo soap factory, bringing in much needed revenue to those who have survived and remain her. 

My return…

It’s 2023, I am back in Syria for the 4th time since the conflict ended. I first visited in 2017 and return to guide each year. When I talk of the conflict ending, I mean the fighting and the government maintaining control, so maybe the fear subsided, but life after war means the conflict is internalised whilst people pick up their lives, attempt to rebuild whilst the sanctions crush the people and buildings and parts of towns remain destroyed. It is an undeniable reality. Each year more people are rebuilding homes and souqs, more tourists arrive, keen to get away from the mass tourism encompassing nearby Jordan and visit Syria.

People struggle with the ethics of this, we are consumed by the international news, but by staying away it is the local people who suffer. I take my groups to lunch with my friend Muhammed, to visit his family and have a beautiful lunch, much is the hospitality of Syria. I used to stay with him and his family in an old house in Damascus. When I lived in Aleppo in 2010 – 2012, I would visit Palmyra on my tour and also alone and I would stay with his brother and family out there in the desert, he loves seeing us like the old days. I think people are clinging on to this, but then, don’t we all!

The Syria I loved and knew does remain but the people are desperate, and now I want to show that this underneath all of our preconceptions, media influence, battles with our morals…Syria is ready, begging for people to come back but it will be a slow process, its nice to visit now, to give people hope and establish connections to ensure money is going back to the people. They want to see us grace their streets once more, this is also an undeniable reality.
It is safe, yes thousands died through ISIS, the Government, Russia…Getting into the politics is 

I guess you decide for yourself rather than letting a government lift the FCO warning on a country that is safer than wondering around my local town on a Friday night. 

Our local guide, Wassim, is incredible, the love and passion for his country is felt, his knowledge and expertise about both sides of the conflict is fascinating, he is really able to provide insights to this confusing region. Let alone his sense of humour, and jovality when convincing others to try local Syrian dishes (Syrian not Lebanese…yes the food came from the land of the 2 oldest cities in the world.