I have been thinking a lot about Syria recently, especially in the light of Poland refusing to accept Syrian refugees – or any others for that matter. How is that possible? where the Polish diaspora is all over the world, her refugees and displaced persons – as they were known at the time- having been accepted by every continent. The more I talk to elderly Poles the more I discover that they came to England via Mexico, India, Africa and Australia; some found themselves in Canada and Argentina, the United States and Scotland – I just mention the greatest concentrations of Poles who had been deported to Siberia and then after the so called amnesty travelled overland and sea for many months throughout the middle east to their eventual safe havens – in my parents’ case: England. But their first ports of call were mostly Persia and Syria. Now the Syrians themselves are fleeing their own country for a safer life. And Poland does not see fit to return the favour. Horrible.
Yet when I was there eight years ago no-one imagined the atrocities that would be dealt and the misery that would ensue. No-one would have thought that this ancient place of worship, where Chrisitianity and Islam lived comfortably together (see link below) would suffer such damage,no-one could conceive of such sacrilege. Yet it happened. People do not learn from history though that is not a reason not to study it. In depth.
So we went inside. At first, Jacek was reluctant to take off his shoes in public but cultural differences notwithstanding he did, I put on the large hooded garment and in we went.
Amazingly ornate and stunningly beautiful, it was magnificent too because of its size. I won’t bore you with precise dimensions – I am sure you can look them up, but it was huge. What was particularly interesting for me, (who had only been to one other mosque in my life – the East London Mosque on a school trip – that was significant because of its physical dreariness, though it had some wonderful youth programmes) was its decorativeness and intricacy.
What was also lovely was how relaxed people were in and around the courtyard and the prayer rooms inside. Hundreds of pilgrims, tourists, picnickers, all ambling together or rambling individually. A fantastic atmosphere of peaceful happiness.
People resting in the shade, some were actually sleeping.
The great doors hid immense prayer rooms, but we didn’t feel we could take photos.
Jacek discalced – in good company.
A group of American women who kept in this huddle throughout their time I think. Quite some feat!
Unfortunately I don’t remember what this is. Can anyone help?
This is, I think a picture of how it looked just after the second world war, when Syria was Frenchified. Now the mosque is apparently being rebuilt. I’m not sure. the images I have seen have all shown the ruins and tragedy.
This is a good piece to read:
3 comments on “The Umayyad Mosque of Damascus”
Well said Basia! I was there eight years ago too. No one ever imagined that one day the Syrians will be a refuge.I do not think there is one person in this world who belongs to one place only and that his/her grandparents belong to the same place. We all belong to different areas, human since their first day on earth, they moved to seek for safety, food, fun or any other reason. So no one can say I’m just out of this place. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia but my parents are from Syria, and my grandparents are from Turkey.
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Thank you for reading and for your very pertinent comment. We are all of course citizens of the world and so have responsibilities for each other. It really shouldn’t matter the place where we are born – that is often quite accidental: a five of circumstance.
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