Tribute to Syria: Facts and Photos

The whole world watches as Syria falls apart. To most of the people following the news, it is just one more sad piece of news, but to those who know Syria well, the tragedy is far beyond what words could possibly tell. I had the luck of visiting Syria twice, and since mine is not a blog for political reflections, I will stick to the cultural aspect, and share with you photos of monuments, streets and people that might not be there anymore…but first, here are some facts that, probably, you did not know about Syria:

Damascus is the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city;
Ugarit is home to the world’s first alphabet (the Ugaritic and Phoenician alphabets vie for which came first);
Maaloula is one of the very few cities where Aramaic is still spoken;
Palmyra is the site of an ancient kingdom that once rivaled Rome under Queen Zenobia;
– Syria is where the biblical ‘conversion’ of Saint Paul took place;
– Damascus, as capital of the Umayyads, was once the capital of an empire that stretched from Central Asia to the Iberian Peninsula;
– It was through the cultural refinement introduced by Umayyads from Syria that the Iberian Peninsula lived a golden age during the era of al-Andalus;
Krak des Chevaliers is the best preserved Crusader castle in the world;
– Syria had the world’s first bimaristan (proper hospital) for the mentally challenged patients, who were treated with music and water, among other things;
– Until its invasion by the Mongols in the 13th century, Syria had the world’s best centers of glass manufacturing;
– Syria is the birthplace of Ibn al-Nafis, the first in history to describe the pulmonary circulation of blood;
– Syria is the resting place of some of the world’s greatest scientists, saints and intellectuals: Ibn Arabi, Al-Bairuni and Saint Simeon Stylites are just a few examples;
– The Umayyad Mosque of Damascus is one of Islam’s holiest places, and the template for the Great Mosque of Cordova in Spain. Both are UNESCO Word Heritage Sites>

One more thing (on a personal note): I have never met any people as genuinely generous as the Syrians, and never felt as safe anywhere in the world as I did in Damascus.

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