Syria Then and Now

“Arab Spring” situations have an inexorable tendency to go pear-shaped (Tunisia, the first country to experience one is the lone exception, but even there the “old guard” is reportedly making a comeback, so the whole thing was essentially for nothing in the end). In Egypt, the revolution went from bringing an Islamist to power whose economic policies were either useless or were sabotaged by the organization that actually owns Egypt (the army controls 40% of the economy), back to someone who suspiciously looks like the old boss, with the only difference that he’s even worse. Nothing about the situation even remotely resembles democracy at this juncture. Getting jailed and tortured in Egypt and getting sentenced to death in mass show trials is once again par for the course.

Libya has disintegrated into a so-called “failed state” and is wracked by an ongoing civil war between the same factions that faced each other in Egypt: Islamists and the army, whereby in Libya there is also a dash of warlordism in play. The official government doesn’t even control the capital.

Syria however is arguably the worst case. The country, fought over by once again the very same types of factions (the army of a secular tinpot dicator and Islamists) has been rendered a pile of rubble in many places. We were reminded of a picture we have recently come across that illustrated this fact rather starkly. It shows a satellite image of Syria at night, before and after the civil war:


war in syriaThe lights have gone out in Syria’s largest cities. Click to enlarge photo.


The only other places on earth that look comparably desolate in terms of lighting are either natural wastelands, the poorest regions in Africa or North Korea. Note that even before the civil war, light was concentrated in inhabitable areas – a lot of Syria consists of desert. Still, the difference is striking.


Aleppo’s Cultural Heritage Destroyed

We want to direct your attention specifically to Aleppo, once the largest city in the Levant. Today it looks like they are using two or three candles there at night. Here are two panoramas of Aleppo from before the war, from different perspectives:


BEFOREALEPPO.SKYLINE.2006.fin2_.AP06031706603Aleppo before the war – in the background one can see its famous citadel.

 Photo credit:dapd


BEFOREsyria-aleppoA different view of Aleppo from before the war.

 Photo credit: dbajurin


Aleppo is one of the world’s oldest cities. Archeologists found the remains of a temple to the Bronze Age storm god Adda (5000 BC) during excavations in Aleppo’s citadel. Aleppo was always one of the Middle East’s cultural and religious melting pot cities. It is e.g. not only home a great many antique mosques and other Islamic buildings (like the Dar-al-Ifta shown further below), but also to quite a large number of once beautiful Christian Maronite churches and cathedrals, as well as a few ancient synagogues (including the remains of a 2000 years old one). We must qualify the word “is” at this point. In a great many cases the appropriate term is “was”, because many of these buildings have been destroyed.

Below are a few pictures of Aleppo as it looks today. First pictures of residential areas, then a few “before and after” pictures of the irreplaceable cultural heritage destroyed by bombings and artillery.



aleppo-strike-852-04013259Residential area in Aleppo

 Photo credit:AP / Author unknown



SYRIA_2359237bAnother residential area

 Photo credit: dpa



St.Kevork Church AleppoInside the St. Kevork church (St. George church) in Aleppo

 Photo credit:AFP / STR



Dar-al-ifta-Aleppo-before-afterThe Dar-al-Ifta, before and after (the “House of Fatwa Issuance”)

 Image via / Author unknown


The Souq Khan al-Wazeer, before and after.

 Image via: / Author unknown


Umayyad Mosque in AleppoAnd finally, the ancient Ummayyad mosque, above pictured in 2012, below in 2013.

 Image via: / Author unknown


War is hell and it has been unleashed in Syria to terrible effect on the lives of its people and its cultural heritage. The bombing was (so far) mainly Assad’s doing, and as can be seen above, he was quite thorough. Anyone bombing Syria now is mainly facing leftovers, and will presumably transform bigger pieces of rubble into slightly smaller pieces of rubble.



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2 Responses to “Syria Goes Dark”

  • jimmyjames:

    Looks like we should have gone along with the coalition of the willing idea .. headed by the western world,s complete embarrassment: John Kerry : and lobbed in “so gentle you wont believe it ” missile strikes .. likely those ancient buildings would have had only grey pock marks on them ..

  • No6:

    This is the future for the entire globe. Weapons are becoming ever more powerful and tensions are rising as the economies deteriorate.
    At least astronomers will get a clearer view of the night sky.

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