Visions of Syrian splendour

Article published on Jan. 3, 2007
community published
Article published on Jan. 3, 2007

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Syria: a country intimately linked to the past and the present of the West, as seen through the lens

A former French protectorate from 1920 to 1946, Syria has had a turbulent history and today serves as regular news fodder in political columns of newspapers the world over. Syria has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since the list's inception in 1979. Above all, the 20 million inhabitants of this country face daily challenges in attempting to overcome the economic crisis in the region.

(Photo:Portraits of leaders called ‘resistance fighters’ emblazon the sides of a Damas bus. The fighters are the Iranian and Syrian Presidents with the Lebanese Hezbollah party leader.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)The Krac des Chevaliers (‘fortress of the knights’) dominates the Homs Gap, a strategic plain that separates the neighbouring ranges of Mount Lebanon and Jebel Ansariya. It’s a modern village that almost hangs at the foot of its walls.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)Several second-hand vehicles are imported to Syria from Europe. Amongst others here, a French postal van has been put to new use in front of the Aleppo citadel.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)In the Orontes valley, Bedouins occupy the bed of a dam under construction. Their unusual camps have been present here and in urban areas for thousands of years.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)The majestic ruins of the antique city of Apamea tower in front of this aged citizen. Behind him, a fortified village is spread out. Life here has gone on since the large city disappeared after an earthquake in the 12th century.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)Apamea’s main street stretches for almost two kilometres. The city was home to several hundred thousand inhabitants at the beginning of the Christian era and controlled the Orontes region until the arrival of the Crusaders.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)The Bedouins rode ornate motorbikes like these, both on the desert roads and through the city’s winding alleyways. This particular motorbike is parked in one of Aleppo’s narrow back-alleys.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)At the foot of the citadel in Aleppo lies a hill covered with carved stones, surrounded with moats, with a bridge crossing it. This giant construction is currently being renovated.

 (Photo: Mathieu Baudier)A young apprentice dyer stretches scarves over the roofs of the souks in Aleppo. The town is reputed for the quality of its artisans, as well as for its souks that brim with activity, colours and savours.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)The wind suddenly rises over Aleppo and the scarves that were tidily aligned are transformed into a swirl of blue and pink tissue.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)To the north-east of Aleppo lie the remainders of 'dead Byzantine cities' that have been abandoned for centuries. The St. Simeon Basilica was an important centre of pilgrimage.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)Stretching from the north to the south through the centre of Syria, the broad Euphrates River injects life into the middle of the sprawling desert. A young Syrian man walks along its banks, near Ar Raqqah.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)At the heart of the desert, a troop of several hundred camels make their tranquil way to the dried bed of a wadi. They are the only trace of life in the surrounding area.

(Photo: Mathieu Baudier)The large Omeyyades mosque in Damas is a real hive of life. After Friday prayer, worshippers stay inside the building where they discuss the latest news and religion in small groups.

(Photos: Mathieu Baudier)