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Syria - I'm not there | by Liam Levitz
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Syria - I'm not there

I was trawling through the archive of photographs I never processed or posted and came across a series of images from Damascus, Syria. The shots were taken outside the Umayyad mosque in central Damascus. The mosque, which was built in 715 sits at the heart of the glorious Old Town of Damascus, one of, if not the oldest populated cities in the world. The mosque is the religious heart of both the Sunni and Shia populations of Syria and is an iconic destination for Syrians and tourists alike. I was fortunate to spend a few short minutes inside the mosque but I felt more at home loitering for hours in the square that sits outside its main entrance. In this square I saw fellow tourists swinging their cameras about just like me; I saw the shrouded and proud woman walking to prayer; I saw mopeds speed across the paving stones before hurtling themselves at improbable speed into the crowded entrance to the labrynthian glory of the Damascus souk; I met Iraqi refugees who shared their time and stories with me; I saw the secret policemen skulking around me checking; I saw time slow and people stop as the hour of Ramadan approached, one by one they would sit on the massive stones that hold up the mosques outer walls. Some would sleep, some would talk, some would stare into the distance, patiently waiting the call to prayer and the freedom to eat. I saw life in all its forms clutter and cluster around me in a way that only the world’s great places can provide.

Capturing the bursts and hustle of life in all its forms in these places is never easy. You can lose yourself and your camera chasing the shot you want and forget what is really there. So, my solution was to stand perfectly, if slightly awkwardly, still in the centre of the square, to hold the camera at my waist and just click away. Every 30 seconds or so I would press the shutter, capturing nothing special, nothing magical, nothing that will wow anyone. But I also captured the life that was, and still is, in Damascus. I captured the day to day wanders of some of the friendliest, most generous, and most oppressed people I have ever met. It’s for this reason that I thought I would post a small and futile gesture of support to these people in the form of these shots. My own feelings when seeing these shots are strong and as trite as it can feel sitting so many miles away, my heart does go out to each and every one of those people whose lives I shared and captured in these shots. I can only hope that soon they can once again walk these streets unharmed and free of all that holds a great people down.


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Taken on September 15, 2009