© Alain Homsi

This alley in the old city, close to the souk of Aleppo, reminded me of the streets of Bab Touma in Damascus that I walked along every day as a child on my way to school. Walking through this alley was like travelling through time. This street was one of the hardest hit during the violent clashes that rocked the city’s historic districts in April 2013.

© Alain Homsi

The first time I visited the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo was in 2008, during the filming of a television show for children. I discovered the spiritual links between the two Ummayad mosques of Aleppo and Damascus. Aleppo holds the remains of Saint Zacharias (the Prophet Zakaria for Muslims), the father of Saint John the Baptist (Prophet Yahya for Muslims) whose tomb is located in the Great Mosque of Damascus. The minaret of the mosque of Aleppo collapsed on April 24, 2013.

© Alain Homsi

A Unesco world heritage site, the city of Bosra is 141 km south of Damascus and used to be the capital of the Roman province of Arabia. It still has a second-century Roman theatre, paleo-Christian ruins and several mosques. When I took this photo in 2009, I was surprised by the serenity it emanated. For me, the contrast between the bright colours of drying clothes and the black basalt ruins that surround them is a metaphor for a country that must rise from the ashes.

© Alain Homsi

I walked through the souk Madhat Pasha in downtown Damascus, past this tiny shop that sells biscuits. The three people were like characters from a silent film of the 20s. The old man on the right reminds me of my grandfather.

© Alain Homsi

Built in 1590, the Mosque of Sinan Pasha (Al Sinanya) is one of the most beautiful Ottoman mosques in Damascus. It is outside the walls of Old Damascus, just in front of Bab Al-Jabieh (Porte Al- Jabieh). I was attracted by the tranquillity of this man, so absorbed in his reading that he did not notice me taking his photo.

© Alain Homsi

I took this photo at night in one of the many small streets in the old town around the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. In contrast to the bustle of the day, at night it is absolutely calm.

© Alain Homsi

I went to the mountain city of Sednaya on the last day of 2009, en route to Maaloula in Tunisia. The view of the valley from the monastery of Our Lady is beautiful, especially at sunset. I wanted to capture the posture of this young man, leaning against the wall of the monastery, meditating while facing the valley in the shadow-play of the balustrade.
Famous since the Middle Ages, thanks to the many miracles said to be associated with the image of the Virgin Mary, this place continues to attract pilgrims of all faiths. There are probably more Muslims than Christians among them.

© Alain Homsi

The village of Maaloula, perched like an eagle's nest on the heights of Mount Qalamoun, has always fascinated me. Here Aramaic, the language of Christ, is still spoken by the villagers, and the Catholic Mass continues to be celebrated in that language. The local legend of the miracle of Saint Thecla (Mar Takla) also lives on. Chased by Roman soldiers, Thecla, a young pagan converted to Christianity, was saved when a cave in the mountain opened miraculously to protect her. A sacred spring flows near what is said to be her cave tomb, reached by steps in the mountainside. It has become a pilgrimage site with a holy well.

© Alain Homsi

"The world’s most magnificent castle" is how Thomas Edward Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, described the Krak Des Chevaliers or "Al Hosn Qualaat" in Arabic. This majestic citadel, which stands 60 km west of Homs, was one of the most important Crusader castles. I visited this place for the first time during a school trip when I was in college in Damascus. I went back 20 years later, during my last trip to Syria in 2010.

© Alain Homsi

This magnificent mosque in the historic heart of old Damascus has always been a symbol of co-existence between religious communities. Built on a site used for worship for centuries, it holds the remains of the Roman Temple of Jupiter, built in the third century on the site of an ancient temple of Hadad, a Syro-Aramaic god. This mosque, where Christians and Muslims prayed side-by-side at the time of the Umayyad dynasty of the empire of the caliphate, houses the tomb of Saint John the Baptist (Prophet Yahya for Muslims).

MEMORIES OF A DIFFERENT SYRIA

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