Aleppo from citadel

In November 1993 Andy and I travelled to Syria with a tour organised by Voyages Jules Verne. There were no direct flights to Syria so we flew into and out of Amman, Jordan. Although the tour was only a week long we covered a lot of ground. Our tour guide was a civil engineer and archeologist. He was friendly, enthusiastic and informative, but we did often have to cope with the cold when visiting  sites where some of the earliest writing had been found or where crusades had been fought.

We visited many of the places which have now, sadly become familiar through the daily news reports of destruction, devastation and suffering: Aleppo, Homs, Palmyra and, one of the early casualties, Maalula, where the early Christian monastery was seriously damaged in 2014.

Syria may seem like a far away place and some polititians, wanting to appear tough to win votes from the "our own first" constituency, repeatedly vote to limit severely the number of refugees they permit to enter the UK, even children, but they can't have been there.  In 1993 the Syrians lived under the Assad senior regime and the outside world tarred them all with the same brush; a hot bed for terrorists and a threat to the West, but the Syrian people were some of the most friendly and hospitable, educated and interesting people I have met. Now their historic homeland has been almost destroyed, they are vicitims not only of the Assad junior regime but of the evil Islamic state; thousands killed and millions displaced and we respond like threatened, selfish cowards and refuse to give them shelter. It is shaming and I sometimes wonder whether it is true: that those who have least share most.

Somewhere in my attic are my travel diary notes and photographs from my 1993 trip and I intend to find them and write them up as I did my earlier Indian diary.   

The children I met in 1993 will be struggling to bring up their own families or take them to safety. They are no different from families any where else in the world except that they have been affected by terrible disaster through no fault of their own. 

Donate and help protect Syrian children (Unicef)