I took these photos of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, two years ago and am happy that I can share them with you now. I feel fortunate to have visited a mosque that’s so important in terms of history and religion. It was built around 700 AD and, according to many sources, is in the top 3 or 4 holiest sites of Islam in the world (after Mecca and Medina).
This post, by the way, is part of a new series called Remembering Syria: What It Was Like Before the War. I’m dedicating it to the people of Syria–those struggling and suffering there right now–and to other Syrians around the world who are concerned about their family and friends back home. Although it’s a small contribution, I’m hoping that my posts–including this photo essay–can help keep the Syrian spirit alive in some way…
And now, a photographic journey through the mosque and back to a more peaceful time…
What It Was Like
I remember the day I went. It was in mid-June and the weather was quite hot. I planned to shop at the Souk, then to visit the mosque. They were next to each other and not far from where I was staying, so I walked there.
When I arrived, I saw Muslims preparing themselves–with their routine washing ritual–before going inside.
I recall having to remove my shoes and being given a scarf to wear. I put it on, then entered the area where the prayers were taking place and found myself in awe of the mosque’s beauty.
As I walked around, I admired the architecture and I felt the history of the place. Because it was relatively silent, except for some movement and the echoes of people’s whispers, I felt calm and relaxed. It was nice to have some quiet time after being in the busy, noisy souk. It gave me a chance to reflect on my trip and the experiences I’d been having.
I eventually wandered into the walled courtyard and was greeted with a different scene. A more lively one. Young children were playing; others were running. And it didn’t matter. Families were together and where they wanted and needed to be. There was a sense of peace and contentment, and I was honored to see and feel it for the short time I was there.
And I found the reflections of the people on the floor to be beautiful–hence, all the photos of those types of scenes.
This final photo is one of my absolute favorites from my time in Damascus.
What It’s Like Now
I tried to find out the current condition of the mosque. Unfortunately, searching Google didn’t reveal much. I’m assuming that it’s still intact–that it has not been damaged in the war. If anyone knows anything, please share in the comments and I’ll add it in here.
Sadly, the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo has suffered significant damage. Regime forces trashed, defaced and burned it, according to many sources. To learn more, click here.
Have you ever visited a country that destabilized and ended up in a civil war not too long after you were there? If so, how do you feel about it? For me, Syria is the only one that falls into this category and I must say it’s sad–and surreal. It’s something I never imagined would happen.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this photo journey and were able to feel some of the good vibes I felt at the mosque. As I prepared this post, I recalled the experience I had there and it felt good to reflect on it.
For a few moments, I forgot the reality of the present moment.
Let’s hope the war ends soon and that peace is restored to Syria so that its people can look forward…to the future.