Last month marked the sad milestone of the 2nd anniversary of the Syrian uprising. This past March the country experience the bloodiest month yet with more than 6,000 documented deaths.
It's the sixth year since I traveled down the Levant from Turkey to Israel following the paths of the ancient trade routes. I had arrived in Aleppo without a reservation and was trying to check into the overbooked Beit Wakil, a former upscale family mansion that had been transformed into a small elegant hotel, in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. Due to the wrong date on my computer I was a day too early and it seemed without a room for the night. The frazzled young receptionist began ringing a bell with an alarming clang. Somewhere deep inside the thick walls I heard baritone sounds growing louder.
Staircase near the Armenian Church of the Forty Martyrs. The church was built in the 15th century and is located in the Christian quarter north of the Old City.Extensive damage occurred to many of buildings in the Jdeideh district of Aleppo, on February 20, 2013
"No problem, I will fix," said a burly man wearing a long Arabian Thobe (the casual robe that Middle Eastern men where in the intense heat). Scuttling down the steps, he turns to me, "Hello, I'm Habib, the manager and we will take care of your room."
"Find her a room," he yells over his shoulder to the receptionist as he takes my arm and leads me down a stone hall to an inner courtyard.
"Have you eaten? Don't eat because I am taking you for dinner. Aleppo has the best food in the Middle East. I promise you what ever you don't like we won't charge."
Later, we shared stories of our times in London, Paris and Vienna. As the night wore on we sang all the songs from Fiddler on the Roof as Habib filled glass after glass of Arak, the sweet, anise-flavored aperitif of Syria. The more he drank, the more he began to look like Zero Mostel who played Tevye on Broadway.
That was then...
Candy Vendor, Damascus.My favorite place for sweets is the Al-Hamidiyah Souq, located outside the historic Umayyad Mosque in the Center of the old city. The Souk was built in 1780 and is the largest in Syria. Locals have been coming here especially for the delicious pistachio covered Booza,the pounded ice cream popular though out the Middle East. October 25, 2012 in the ancient quarter of Sidi Hamouda which lies near the souk was set on fire and destroyed by Syrian Army.
Today, Aleppo and Damascus are the hottest flash points in the ongoing civil war. According to the UN's the war has claimed over 70,000 lives. From the first surprise offensive the Syrian rebels launched just nine months ago from the poorest neighborhoods of Aleppo, it has been reported that the remaining population relies solely on donations from foreign aid organizations to survive.
A Dove of Peace flies above the Citadel, Aleppo. This medieval fortress is situated in the center of Aleppo is considered to be one of the oldest and largest in the world. The doors and entrance suffered damage in August 2011 when the Syrian army began shelling the area for control over the citadel.
UN Security Council's lack of action to end the conflict
The U.N. human rights chief said on this past Tuesday, "The death toll in Syria is likely approaching 70,000 -- up almost 10,000 from the start of this year -- and civilians are paying the price for the UN Security Council's lack of action to end the conflict." Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, repeated her call for the 15-member council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court to send a message to both parties in the conflict that there will be consequences for their actions.
Bakery in the Old City, Damascus. All Six World Heritage sites throughout Syria have been damaged by shelling, looting and army occupation.
Aleppo Night Market. The conflict has forced children to beg on the street or find jobs in order to provide anything for their families.
This has become the norm in a country besieged by violence. In the two years since an uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad broke out, the UN children's agency UNICEF estimates that one in every five schools in Syria has been destroyed.
Today, my heart cries for their loses and for those soon to die. I know little of this kind of fear. I could only imagine the horror.
Souk al-Madina, Old City Aleppo. The covered souk with over 1,500 shops is the largest in the world. Most of the souk dates to the 14th century. In the early morning of September 25, 2012 it caught on fire as a result of the civil war that continues today.
A Destruction of Biblical Proportions
A response of historic numbers to a focused mission.
Hands getting it done in a grand job for Peace.
A car bomb in Bab Touma sets off a Storm of Destruction.
In the Old City of Damascus where Muslims, Christians and Jews have
lived side by side in quarters marked with walls three men high.
The warning rises, carried forever on the Four Winds driving a storm of epic proportions.
As the deluge of violence in Syria spreads throughout the Middle East.
War planes thunder over Damascus ensuring its destruction.
Sadly the prediction delivers true -- a passionate echo from the Prophet Isaiah.
We see his words knitted on the back of a sweater in Aleppo.
"THERE WILL COME A TIME"
Text and photos
©Marla Mossman 2013