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25 December 2015 / leggypeggy

Tonight my heart and thoughts are in Syria

indoor campfire Damascus Syria

Christmas around a campfire in a tent in Damascus, 2009

Christmas always makes me think of Syria, and this year the thoughts are stronger than ever.

Today my heart is breaking for Syria and her citizens, but it wasn’t always that way.

I first visited Damascus in 1977, and then moved there in 1980 after Poor John and I married in Jordan (must tell that story one day). Our first daughter, Libby (who lives in Paris now), was born in Damascus in 1981 and had her first Christmas in that once beautiful city.

That year I bought an artificial Christmas tree and a variety of simple decorations at the small shop that was around the corner from our flat. I still have all the decorations but, a few years ago, I gave the tree to my dear friend, Maggie.

We were back in Syria for Christmas in 2009. That was the year we spent travelling through Africa on the back of an overland truck. We had some of December in Egypt, but moved on to Jordan and then Syria.

Going to Palmyra

Some of our travelling companions

Christmas Eve was in a large tent in a campground in Damascus. Christmas Day we drove on to Palmyra, that glorious city that has been ravaged by ISIL (or whatever name you use to call these mongrels).

This year has been especially devastating for Palmyra. ISIL destroyed the Lion of Al-lat and other statues, the Temple of Baalshamin, the Temple of Bel, three tower tombs and some non-religious structures including the monumental arch.

In August, the savages brutally murdered 82-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, a renowned antiquities scholar, because he refused to reveal where valuable artefacts had been moved for safekeeping.

Amidst all this tragedy and the flight of so many Syrians from their beloved homeland, I am stunned by the heartless reactions of so many people in the Western world. The cries of ‘no Muslims in our country’ and ‘stop the boats’ leave me feeling the world has lost its bearings and its sense of community.

I can only hope that 2016 brings a greater sense of reason and compassion.

Christmas lunch in Palmyra

Christmas lunch in Palmyra

A few obscure things you probably don’t know about Syria
A friend of ours looks after refugees in Barcelona. He says, without exception, that the Syrians he looks after only want to return home when there is peace. They love their country. He says that’s rarely the case with other refugees.

When we lived in Syria only two people were authorised to hold gold ingots—an Arab (Christian or Muslim) and a Jew.

I’m not sure of the exact year, but Assad senior allowed 50 Jewish girls to migrate to Israel because there weren’t enough young Jewish men for them to marry in Syria.

In spite of his flaws, Assad is a member of a minority. Over the years, the Assads have, for the most part, tried to protect the minorities. Of course, there are exceptions.

More about Syria soon
I’ll be doing a few more blog posts about Syria in the coming weeks. I want Libby, who may never see the country of her birth, to know more about a once wonderful and beautiful country.

And I want to share pictures of how Syria once was.

The two links below show some of the devastation that has hit Syria. Perhaps they’ll help you to understand how this country is suffering and why people flee.

Syria—humanitarian crisis

Syria—before and after

Cooking some Arabic bread
If you’re an enthusiastic cook, or even an novice, you can enjoy Arabic bread with this simple recipe.

Syrian children

I wonder where and how these lovely Syrian children are now

96 Comments

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  1. wfdec / Dec 25 2015 11:04 pm

    Only girls cry, they say. But sometimes old men can be moved to tears. We have become a selfish world and we make everyone else pay for our selfishness. Thank you so much for showing us all a world we never knew existed. Some people might say you are lucky to be able to travel where you do – I think you have a great task to tell us more. And I think it could be an onerous task.

    Liked by 10 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 25 2015 11:21 pm

      What a moving comment you have made. Perhaps your words will kick me along to write more about some of the places I’ve been that really can’t be visited any more. Thank you.

      Liked by 6 people

  2. Chris / Dec 25 2015 11:45 pm

    Thanks Peggy, a great post. Remember it well. It is truly a great tragedy in our time. I’m sure you know Syria better than me but running trips through there was an absolute highlight of a ME tour, absolutely loved the people and the landscape.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 12:14 am

      I loved all of Syria and her people too. Seems so hopeless to wish for a better story for the Syrians.

      Like

  3. Chris / Dec 25 2015 11:56 pm

    Remember the Bedouin tent we stayed in Christmas night? The big thing that hits me now was the fact that we were all wearing santa hats and nobody gave a toss, locals I mean. Syrians are awesome!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 12:15 am

      I remember that fabulous tent and it will appear is a coming post. And yes, the Santa hats. We must have looked goofy but no one made us feel weird.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. simpletravelourway / Dec 26 2015 12:51 am

    Syria is on our minds,too. Thanks for the heartfelt remembrance.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. jollof / Dec 26 2015 1:16 am

    Reblogged this on The Crazy Nigerian and commented:
    This is an apt article for this time of year and keeping in mind all the pain caused by unrest in various parts of the world. I wish everyone around the world some peace this Christmas and beyond. God bless everyone…

    Liked by 6 people

  6. the drunken cyclist / Dec 26 2015 1:30 am

    Fantastic post. Every day we need to be reminded that it only takes a few to subject many. I am not religious at all, but I pray that Syria will once again be returned to the people.

    Liked by 5 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 9:12 am

      What a wonderful way of putting it. I’m not at all religious either, but that’s a perfect prayer.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. susan@marsha'sbungalow / Dec 26 2015 2:46 am

    Thank you for this thoughtful look into Syria. I am looking forward to your next posts, difficult though they may be.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Mama Cormier / Dec 26 2015 3:45 am

    I think Syria is on the minds of many of us today. I started my post today with a wish for the Syrian refugees. I’d like to reblog this post as well. Your personal experiences in Syria are very eye opening and need to be shared in the blogging world. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2016. HUGS TO YOU PEGGY!
    Carol

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 8:37 am

      Best wishes and hugs to you and yours too, Carol, and thanks so much for the reblog.

      Like

  9. Mama Cormier / Dec 26 2015 3:49 am

    Reblogged this on Mama Cormier and commented:
    Please read this very insightful post about Syria. Peggy from Where to Next? has lived and travelled through Syria and knows from personal experience the devastation that Syrians have encountered over the last several years.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 8:38 am

      Really appreciate you spreading the word. Many, many thanks.

      Like

  10. gallivance.net / Dec 26 2015 4:37 am

    Peggy, you write with such wonderful, knowledgeable compassion. It’s so refreshing to hear someone who has spent time in Syria extoll its virtues. Thank you. Wishing you and your family a joyful holiday and new year. Do you have adventures planned for 2016? All the best, Terri

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 8:47 am

      Thanks so much. Syria really was a wonderful country, filled with gracious and welcoming people.
      As for our travels next year, we’re off to Alaska, Cuba and parts of South and Central America. All the best to you two for the holidays and the year ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Mithai Mumblezz / Dec 26 2015 5:52 am

    Its very sad and hurtful to see Syria this way. it’s such a beautiful country. Thank you for the post.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2016.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 8:49 am

      Thanks for stopping by. It breaks my heart to see the devastation of Syria.
      Wishing you happy holidays and a blessed 2016.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mithai Mumblezz / Dec 27 2015 2:05 am

        Yes the condition at those places are very heartbreaking. Some of them have very rich literature….used to read a lot of folklores and fairy tales from there.
        Thank you for the wishes 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Lynz Real Cooking / Dec 26 2015 8:57 am

    It is sad and devastating! Merry Christmas peggy!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dinata Misovec / Dec 26 2015 10:51 am

    Thank you for this moving article. The last picture made my cry.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 11:43 am

      Yes, it’s agonising to think of what might have happened to these children.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Sangeeta Pradhan RD, CDE / Dec 26 2015 11:25 am

    Peggy, this Is a reminder to those of us who are fortunate and privileged enough to be living in free nations. Despite the threat of terror, worldwide, we are not faced with the kind of devastation Syrians face. I wish them and everyone a happy and peaceful 2016. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 12:58 pm

      Yes, Sangeeta, so many of us are blessed to live in basically peaceful environments. It means we should be quick to open our arms to those who do not. Let’s hope 2016 is more peaceful for all.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. tony / Dec 26 2015 12:06 pm

    Great article Peggy! It is important to put what we see superficially on the news into context. How would we feel, if our country suddenly became a no go area through no fault of our own! How would we live? What would we do? Looking forward to the remainder of the series.

    Tony
    http://breadtagsagas.com/

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 1:01 pm

      Thanks Tony. Those posts will be particularly bittersweet because they will show a Syria that is no more.

      Like

  16. Sangeeta Pradhan RD, CDE / Dec 26 2015 1:44 pm

    Yes, Peggy, we should offer our love and acceptance to the less fortunate, often trapped by sheer circumstance.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. stephleo / Dec 26 2015 4:21 pm

    The politics of immigration is a travesty! I can only think that those who are calling to close the borders have never seen, or talked to these people who are trying to save their lives and the lives of their children. Thank you for sharing your story!

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 26 2015 6:22 pm

      It encourages me when people share compassionate responses such as yours. Maybe the politicians will start to listen.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Carol Ferenc / Dec 27 2015 7:08 am

    This is so heartbreaking but I look forward to reading more. Your perspective is so appreciated, Peggy.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Mike Darbro / Dec 27 2015 9:41 am

    Looking forward to more about Syria and your history there, Peggy. In the US it’s so sad that a country of immigrants hates immigrants. Recently an article discussed that during WWll over 70% of Americans polled didn’t want Jews coming here in order to escape the Nazis.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours my old classmate!

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 27 2015 10:22 am

      Thanks Mike, and happy holidays to you and yours.

      The state of the world is very sorry these days.

      Like

  20. chattykerry / Dec 27 2015 10:14 am

    A wonderful, humanitarian post, Peggy. I, too, have encountered only charming, lovely Syrians and just wish I could have visited the country. Palmyra and all the barbarism makes tears come to my eyes. The western world is disgracing themselves by refusing to accept more refugees – some more than others.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 27 2015 10:23 am

      Thanks Kerry. I have to say I am impressed by the responses from Canada and Germany. And the Greeks have been hugely supportive.

      Liked by 2 people

      • chattykerry / Dec 27 2015 1:03 pm

        Most of us are good at heart but many of our population are unnecessarily fearful of cultures they don’t understand. Keep up the good work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Dec 27 2015 1:34 pm

        Fear of the unknown or misunderstanding reality can be crippling.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Sy S. / Dec 27 2015 1:10 pm

    Another great blog and your thoughts on living in Syria, back in 1977. I am sure it was a beautiful place at one time and thanks for writing about your great memories… and now ISIS has destroyed all. And all the refugees have fled to Europe, to avoid the war.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 27 2015 1:37 pm

      Thanks Sy. I hope at least some parts of Syria have survived undamaged.

      Like

  22. Curt Mekemson / Dec 27 2015 3:29 pm

    Thank you Peggy, so well said and with such compassion. We will get beyond all of this, but it is so sad, so tragic, so needless. –Curt

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 27 2015 4:07 pm

      Curt, I know the world will get beyond this, but as you say—so sad, so tragic and so needless.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. travellerdee / Dec 27 2015 10:58 pm

    thank you for sharing Peggy and giving us just a glimpse of the beautiful country that was Syria and we hope can be again.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 27 2015 11:04 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I desperately hope Syria can and will recover.

      Like

  24. yeahanotherblogger / Dec 27 2015 11:56 pm

    I think that this is one of your finest articles, Peggy.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. pagedogs / Dec 28 2015 1:16 am

    Thank you for bringing Syria alive for us. Perhaps putting a face on it will help a little in fostering compassion.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Vicki / Dec 28 2015 10:58 am

    Thanks for writing this post, Peggy. We need more people like yourself who have experienced Syria’s former life to share it with us. I find the lack of Compassion and Understanding by some of the Western world to be totally abhorrent. How can people, particularly some Christians that I know, fail to understand the horror and devastation this war has created.

    The faces of these people are so reminiscent of the Jewish holocaust in WWII.

    These people are Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, Brothers and Sisters. They loved, laughed and played just like us in the West. They need all our support and sympathy, not bigotry and hate.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. OrganicIsBeautiful / Dec 28 2015 3:12 pm

    Beautiful Pictures, thank you for sharing and Hello from Malaysia 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  28. mommermom / Dec 28 2015 4:20 pm

    Beautiful memories. My heart breaks for the Syrian people. It is a strange and fearful world we live in. I cannot understand how we can condemnation a people for the actions of some. A truly great post.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 28 2015 4:49 pm

      Thank you mommermom. It is amazing how the actions of so few are taken to represent the actions of many.

      Like

  29. Kennedy / Dec 30 2015 5:15 am

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Kennedy / Dec 30 2015 5:16 am

    Travel (as in immersion) should be a prerequisite for our U.S. presidential candidates, as some on the right seem to have missed the boat, to the embarrassment of us all. Perhaps their politicking has made it so we just can’t take them anywhere nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 30 2015 8:49 pm

      Making candidates travel (without all the perks) is a brilliant idea but, like you said, we mightn’t be able to take them anywhere nice.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. heidi ruckriegel / Dec 30 2015 1:32 pm

    I wish Australia would do more to help. Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees – I have relatives there and they accept that their country is opening its doors, but they are also worried about the strain it is creating on services and society. This problem needs to be solved by all countries and I can’t help but feel ashamed of our government’s selfish, small minded attitude.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 30 2015 8:54 pm

      I’m right there with you. I wish Australia would do more. In relation to Germany, I’ve heard there is a need for something like a minimum of 600,000 people to keep just the government infrastructure running. Obviously Angela Merkel has checked her numbers and realised migrants can be a very good thing.

      Like

  32. Elouise / Dec 31 2015 10:18 am

    It’s all so tragic. Your idea about writing posts and sharing photos about Syria is excellent. I look forward to seeing how you do this. Our minds and ears have been assaulted by lies and images that can be exorcised only by seeing and hearing truth–in words and images that move us to tears and especially to positive, proactive deeds. No matter how small they may seem. I think you have not just a treasure trove (stories and photos), but whatever it takes to get the job done. I’d even say your calling is clear! Thanks for this moving post, and here’s to a Happier New Year for everyone!
    Elouise

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 31 2015 9:44 pm

      It’s an enormous tragedy and the many media outlets have distorted the news and tried to make us fear refugees. I hope my stories help to show Syria and Syrians as good.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. thegreyeye / Dec 31 2015 11:06 am

    In fact few days back, I was telling my boyfriend about you and the fact libby being born in Syria. I know it is a heartfelt time for you people and I also feel very sorry about the great loss of architectural and natural riches in Syria, along with the loss of human lives and dignity. It is a shame for the human race, that still this kind of war is going on somewhere in the world

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 31 2015 9:48 pm

      You said it right—’a shame for the human race’. Let’s hope 2016 brings a little peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Pupazzovi / Dec 31 2015 9:31 pm

    per prima cosa ti dico che ho apprezzato molto il tuo articolo e poi ti faccio gli auguri di buon anno

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Dec 31 2015 9:49 pm

      Thanks so much. Glad you liked the post. Wishing you a good year too.

      Like

  35. Sheryl / Jan 2 2016 10:34 am

    This post really makes me think about what it must be like for people in Syria. Thank you for sharing your personal story about the Christmas’s you spent there. It must be so difficult for you to see all of the tragedy there. Hopefully 2016 will be a more peaceful year.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 2 2016 5:37 pm

      Some parts of the country remain relatively safe, but others lie in ruins. It’a almost incomprehensible. We can only hope that 2016 is better.

      Like

  36. LaVagabonde / Jan 2 2016 7:58 pm

    So sad about the antiques dealer. The destruction of so many historical sites and artifacts is a crime against humanity. A couple of years ago, I came upon a small group of Syrians celebrating in a small square in Bratislava. They were holding up a flag and a photo of Assad. I understood that he must have won an election or something and that’s what they were celebrating. I got the distinct impression that they would return home in a heartbeat. I don’t read news anymore. It’s all so much propaganda. I wish the West would just leave other countries alone and let them decide for themselves who they want as a leader.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 3 2016 2:02 pm

      Many Syrians have a lot of respect for Assad and I reckon all Syrians love their country. I can understand why you wouldn’t watch the news in the US. It seems very biased. We get better and more balanced coverage in Australia.

      Like

  37. milliethom / Jan 3 2016 8:05 am

    Such an enlightening and thought provoking post, Peggy. Conditions are heartbreaking out there, and there is so much suffering. I’d like to know more about Syria and her people, and look forward to reading your future posts. It’s a country that’s evidently very close to your heart.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 3 2016 2:00 pm

      Thanks Millie. I’m working on a new Syrian post that I hope to upload today. Also looking forward to welcoming some Syrian refugees in the new year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • milliethom / Jan 3 2016 10:46 pm

        I’ll have a look asap. It sounds as though it will be very interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

  38. OrganicIsBeautiful / Jan 3 2016 1:50 pm

    I read a lot of blogs, and like the ones that make an impact on me, make me rethink my own comfort zone, my own understanding of life. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  39. blondieaka / Jan 4 2016 6:40 am

    What a lovely , thoughtful blog one which we all need to read beacause we are bombarded by the media and only get to see mainly what the powers that be want us to….so sad that Libby may not be able to visit her place of birth for a long time if at all and so sad for the people who are caught up in the politics, they must be bereft and wonder why the world views their plight as it does. My heart aches for the people of Syria .I will reblog and hope by doing so it will spread understanding of the Syrians plight. I hope you have a wonderful New Year Peggy. Hugs Carol 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 4 2016 8:52 am

      The media often dishes out what they want us to know, although I think Australian media outlets are more balanced in their coverage than the USA. Thanks for the reblog and helping to spread the word.

      Liked by 1 person

  40. blondieaka / Jan 4 2016 6:44 am

    Reblogged this on Retired? No one told me! and commented:
    This is a wonderfully written insight showing the real Syria and it’s people and I hope by reading this you will have a better understanding of the devastation it’s people feel at the events which are still unfolding. I wish you all peace and harmony for the year ahead 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 4 2016 8:54 am

      I really, really, really appreciate the reblog. The world needs to be ready to receive, with open arms, the many Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes.

      Liked by 1 person

  41. hiMe / Jan 8 2016 5:05 pm

    Love your pics and the odd stories about Syria. You did travel a lot.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 9 2016 9:33 am

      We’ve been so lucky to be able to travel extensively.

      Like

  42. dougstuber / Jan 21 2016 4:24 pm

    Genocide, Slavery, Greed

    We cry for the slavery that led to such wealth,

    This is not just the land of the free.

    We witness genocide all over this earth.

    What can we do to end greed?

    We cry for the land, full of modified crops

    We must work to save human life.

    What will our grandchildren have to live through

    Since our appetite causes such strife?

    The oil wars that started a decade ago

    Have moved toward the Caspian Sea.

    We are the dissidents, loud, without fear,

    Even if we are cut at the knees.

    We cry for the news they keep off TV,

    The grapevine could snap any day.

    Disinformation is the age we live in,

    So who’s going to show us the way?

    The answer is simple, we grow as a team,

    A new brotherhood in the light.

    We must build the village, invite all your friends,

    This is no time to give up the fight!

    They have all the bombs, the juntas abound,

    Monsanto is spraying the poor.

    We must dig our hands into arable land

    Or genetics will foul every spore.

    Profit mongers have sucked the earth dry,

    We must reclaim all that we can.

    Industrial China, the last frontier,

    Soon money will own every man.

    The kids on the streets are locked-down together,

    Push a bike, and you could get ten years!

    All this is forced because we stopped caring,

    Yet some offer blood, sweat and tears.

    We couldn’t stop bosses from shipping our jobs,

    The replacement is for-profit jails.

    Our schools are rotting, so teach if you can,

    Where it counts, not Harvard or Yale.

    The time is upon us, united as friends

    We can make anything grow.

    Come join the party, sing and dance all the day,

    Tomorrow we get out the vote.

    We cry for the genocide, slavery, greed

    That persists after thousands of years.

    It’s late, but there’s time, if we really work hard

    We can stop the torrent of tears.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 21 2016 9:27 pm

      Indeed, ‘what will our grandchildren have to live through’?

      Like

  43. Kally / Jan 22 2016 9:54 pm

    Thank you for following me and I love how creative you are and the wonderful posts that you are doing to create awareness. I’ll be back to read more of it!!

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jan 22 2016 10:25 pm

      Very happy to follow your blog, and so glad you’re enjoying mine.

      Like

  44. Ray / Mar 9 2016 2:55 am

    Just as Syria was making a comeback on the “must see” travel list again, the Civil War breaks out and what was once glorious about this land is now being shattered into pieces for no real good reason. My blood just boils every time I hear about rampant and reckless destruction by ISIS all throughout the Middle East. Hoping peace and stability can come back to Syria again soon, but I think it’s going to be a full Generation later before it gets back to where it was in 2009 (if ever). I really do want to visit.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2016 6:38 pm

      Yes, Ray, I suspect it will be a generation or more before Syria returns to the must-see tourist list. The east is being devastated by ISIS and the west is a victim of the civil war. Neither is pretty. Both are heartbreaking. Makes my blood boil too.

      Like

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