Syria is a place of many cultural wonders. Inhabited for ages by many different civilizations its deserts to the border of Iraq reveal some hidden gems.
Near Palmyra excavated tombs dating back to the time of the Roman Empire attract many tourists. But as resources of the state are limited there lasts a vast amount of ancient structures still buried under the sands of the Syrian Desert.
Bedouin children see the remains of the roman temples as their playground and quite don‘t understand why all the Western tourists are so fond of taking pictures of the old rocks.
There‘s very few traffic on the highway connecting north and south through the desert. Due to high oil prices, very scarce public transport and few people owning a car by themselves in the region, people more often rely on their feet and their animals to get to the neighboring hamlet.
As soon as the tourist buses have left, the ruins remain alone in the desert as they did for thousands of years. Only the call of the muezzin from far away disturbs the silence.
Besides the Roman and the Greek Empire the Crusaders and their opponents have left their traces in the form of castles on the ancient trade route that used to lead through the region where the Syrian Desert lies nowadays.
The youngest generation of Bedouins in the region gets more and more in touch with the growing tourism in the region and learns to deal with the opportunities and dangers tourism brings to their region (left). Learning some English by himself from a tourist guide book this 15 year old shepherd earns some extra money by leading tourists through a remote ruin near his home hamlet (right).
Aside from the historical treasures the most precious one for the inhabitants of the desert is water. On some parts the desert seems torn apart by green lush swaths of land. Then often a majestic view is offered to those coming from the hot and dusty desert.
Project: During my visit in Syria in 2009 I travelled with a local friend through the desert. There are few settlements and even less signposts. And you have to know where to look to find hidden signs of ancient civilizations under the sand.