Two places I’d love to see: Syria & Yemen

In May 2011, I travelled to Jordan and Oman, and it was an incredible and amazing fortnight discovering Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum, Muscat, and Nizwa, to name some. However, it was tinged with a small bit of ‘what if’, because the original itinerary was to be ‘Jordan and Syria’.

The Syrian civil war started on 15 March 2011 — four years ago today — and my travel companion and I decided that while travellers were still visiting Syria, for us it was too much of a risk. Gone were the plans of eating from the famous ice-creamery in the Damascus souk. Gone were the plans of seeing the ancient sites in Karak and Aleppo. While the plans of adventures we had talked about for months were gone, what was not gone was the awareness that the inconvenience of our holidays plans needing to change was a trivial matter compared to the emerging reports.

Still, for all those news reports, and the Jordanians saying ‘very bad things’ were happening across the border, we had no idea that what was emerging was the start of a long and bloody civil war — one that four years on has created 3.7 million refugees and killed more then 200,000, including more than 10,000 children.

Needless to say the country has been devastated and decimated and the need to fulfil the tourism dreams of foreigners is the lowest of priorities. But hopefully one day Syria will have peace, and travellers will be able to return to see and learn about the history and culture of the country, and see the landmarks that withstood war. Here are some of the places in Syria that were on our original itinerary in 2011:

Syria: Al-Hamidiyah Souq

Al-Hamidiyah Souq: The Ancient Mall of Damascus, Syria
(Photo: Syrian Ministry of Tourism)

Syria: Bakdash icecream

Bakdash ice cream shop, Damascus (Photo: Reuters)

Ice cream from Bakdash (Photo by farflungistan, Flickr)

Ice cream from Bakdash (Photo by farflungistan, Flickr)

Qala't ibn Maan (Photo: Patrick Horton Lonely Planet Photographer)

Qala’t ibn Maan (Photo: Patrick Horton Lonely Planet Photographer)

Krak des Chevaliers (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Krak des Chevaliers (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Aleppo Citadel (Photo: Holger Leue Lonely Planet Photographer)

Aleppo Citadel (Photo: Holger Leue Lonely Planet Photographer)

The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. (Photo: Suzy Bennett / Alamy)

The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. (Photo: Suzy Bennett / Alamy)

(The Umayyad Mosque has been severely ruined in the war, you can see more pictures in this Daily Mail story)

Lake al-Assad (Photo: Patrick Horton Lonely Planet Photographer)

Lake al-Assad (Photo: Patrick Horton Lonely Planet Photographer)

The other place I would love to see is Yemen.

I’m not sure what it is about Yemen that I find so intriguing. Perhaps it is because it is another country, like two of my favourites Morocco and Oman, that has a merging of Arabic and African culture, a merging that I find so interesting. And another country that has incredible architecture and nature.

Like Syria, Yemen has a deteriorating political situation and it is far from safe for travellers. In fact, much like the reason we didn’t go to Syria, aside from safety, it seems totally insulting to want to luxuriate in a country where so many are fighting for survival. Like Syria, the Australian government has a ‘do not travel’ warning on Yemen.

In the meantime, there are stories and photos of those who have already been there, and here are some of them:

Sanaa (Photo: Source unknown)

Sanaa (Photo: Source unknown)

Yemen: Socotra

Socotra Archipelago in Yemen (Photo: Jan Vandorpe)

Yemen: Socotra

Socotra Archipelago in Yemen (Photo: Marco Pavan)

Yemen: Socotra, desert rose plant

Desert Rose (adenium obesium) on Socotra Island (Photo: Jan Vandorpe)

Yemen: Old Sana'a

A Covered Souk in Old Sana’a (Photo: Maarten de Wolf)

Yemen: wadi doan-Hadramawt

Village of mud-brick houses in wadi doan-Hadramawt, Yemen (Photo: Anthony Pappone)

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