Anyone who has enjoyed the hospitality of the Syrian people and wondered at the country’s amazing treasure trove of antiquities will be despairing at current events. The destruction of lives and dreams and the displacement of millions are an unfolding tragedy; the vandalising and looting of irreplaceable cultural riches a catastrophe.
Reports in recent days that one of the last remaining border crossings between Syria and Iran has been commandeered by ISIS forces seems like another nail in the coffin. It brought back memories of traveling unperturbed less than four years ago, cruising aboard a bus past the turnoff to the Iraq border crossing on the road to Damascus.
Just before that fork in the road we had lunched at the eclectic Bagdad Café which I described in my diary as “a flourishing enterprise offering homemade jam, yoghurt, omelettes of home-laid eggs, dips and pickles, backpacker accommodation, artisan gifts. The young entrepreneur behind Bagdad Café has already opened two others and obviously has plans for expansion”.
What of this young entrepreneurs dreams now? Does the Bagdad Café still exist?
The eclectic Bagdad Cafe…in better days.
At a timely lecture this week on the ancient history of Syria, focusing the rule of the Hittites from around the 12th century BC, Professor Trevor Bryce a former Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New England and long-time visitor to the region, lamented the paucity of information on the fate of people and places. He reminded that Syria, at the crossroads of ancient empires from the east, west, north and south, has been buffeted throughout the millennia by ambitious rulers. Looks like nothing much has changed in the 21st century.