I don’t like to write. Ideally all the information you need is found in the photographs, but these are special circumstances and I feel the pictures need more information. Reports and photos of recent events have made me reconsider this particular moment. Bear with me,
In 2010 after working at Abydos in Egypt for 2.5 months, I traveled in the Middle East alone for a month. From Egypt I flew to Beirut, and from there traveled back to Egypt by land through Syria, Jordan and Israel. I sort of documented my travels, to a certain point, but my posting fell off in Lebanon. A combination of stress, boredom (with myself), loneliness, homesickness, and anxiety. I also at that point was traveling with a tiny dell hackintosh netbook with a screen that was beyond bad. I remember everything looking dark and blue(a metaphor which is only just dawning on me now…) I couldn’t even work on photos, probably the only thing that would have gotten me out of my mindset. I learned I am not a solo traveler, and I may have picked an ambitious destination for that particular lesson.
From Beirut I traveled to Baalbek, and from Baalbek to Damascus. I waited around at the border with Syria hoping to get a visa for 8 hours, which had to come by fax from Damascus. Special treatment for Americans - everyone else got it in an hour or two. Can’t complain since it is one of the very few borders where my passport is a disadvantage. I got to Damascus late at night. Damascus is beautiful, and my mood improved, immediately. The hostel I stayed at felt great (where I stayed in Baalbek, which is by the way Hezbollah HQ, was weird and empty and not very homey to say the least). After a couple days in Damascus I left for Palmyra, where I stayed at what was possibly an even creepier hostel than Baalbek, and had a weird altercation on the (very empty) street where a maybe 13 year old boy followed me on a bike trying to touch me in inappropriate ways. It was an uncomfortable moment because I could have just kicked him off his bike, easily, but then, I was alone in Syria and in the best of circumstances you can’t win in a fight with a kid. Right? I’m by nature non confrontational and I don’t speak Arabic so I stared him down and walked away. Quickly, towards the tourist office and when I came out he was gone. I returned to the creepy hostel to be alone, and not sleeping for the rest of the night. Upset that aggression added to language and cultural barriers could so quickly overturn a seemingly banal interaction between strangers. Upset about the unsurmountable divisions in the world. Upset I was alone, but sometimes alone is the most enlightening way to experience unfamiliar environments.
What you see here are 5 not very good photos I took the following day at the (recently burned) 17th century souq in Aleppo, a Unesco World Heritage site, and what I see is the memory of being too sad and overwhelmed to even photograph it. On a typical day I might have shot 100 photos, more, and on this day I took just a handful with my point and shoot. My experience there was overshadowed by an internal conflict, and the location of these memories now the backdrop of a political conflict. You can continue on to see some more photos from Syria I have posted previously.