Vacation in a War Zone

March 10, PRAGUE—You need to be courageous, strong, and even a hero, but not because you’re going to Syria, but because you’re telling your friends that you’re going there and that you’ll be fine in one of the worst war zones in recent history.


Tekkiye Mosque in Damascus – Center. Feb 2017. By Zeina Kanawati

The conflict has been going on for six years now, and I never stopped visiting. Many of my family members left the country but my mom, dad, and grandma are still there.

Even though Damascus is considered the safest city in Syria, the traces of war are visible everywhere. The sound of the bombing from far away never stops. But even if it stops, you keep hearing it. It’s there in your head always and forever.

I remember the first year when the bombing started, we were all in shock, we rarely left our homes, and we used to cry when we thought of all the people who are suffering and dying under the shelling and bombing of their areas.

Nowadays, nobody thinks about it. It became a daily life routine, but you just listen carefully to where the bombs are falling so you try to keep away from that part of the city. But, of course, if you have an important appointment somewhere under the bombs, you just go there and pretend that life is normal.

The try to have a “normal” life in the middle of the war, is a defensive mechanism against the noises of the deaths, the poor, the missings, and the rubbles around you.


A child sleeping alone in the street. Shaalan, Damascus. Feb 2017. By Zeina Kanawati

There was one day last year when the street of my parents’ home was targeted for the whole day. The bombs were falling on the buildings, in front of them, and through the windows. It never hit my parents’ home, but I was scared to death. Because you sit there and you wait to see where the next bomb is going to hit.

My parents, who were used to this situation, were much more relaxed. My mom was reading her newspaper next to the window, my dad went to take his daily nap peacefully. They said, “Being scared doesn’t change anything”. However, I was hiding under the bed.


A busy day in Al Salehiya souk. Damascus. Feb 2017. By Zeina Kanawati

No Water, No Electricity, No Fuel

Water comes to the houses once or twice a week. Electricity is a very luxurious service that you see for the duration of one hour every six hours. Mobile phones and all the electronic devices are always out of charge. The batteries for lights don’t stay on for a long time because it also needs electricity to be charged.

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The view of Damascus from a hill at night when the power cut is leaving the whole city in darkness and the only light left is the moon in the middle of the sky. Feb 2017. By Zeina Kanawati.

Also, it’s a very difficult mission to get fuel for your car. you have to wait for 9 hours and sometimes more at the fuel station, and at the end of the day, the fuel might run out, and then you will have to come back the next day, and wait again.

Check Points, and More Check Points

Syrians say, “There’s a checkpoint between every checkpoint and the other”.

Checkpoints are the stops where your car gets checked, and where the soldiers and the regime forces ask for your ID, where you are going, and why?

Sometimes, they carry lists with names, and they check if your name is amongst the most wanted! You might be taken into investigation any minute without a charge, or you might be taken to the army service.

To the World, They’re Numbers. To Us, They Are Friends and Family Members

In 2016, the UN envoy estimated 400,000 killed in Syria since 2011. The chances are the real number is much bigger, and it’s rising continually.

The world is getting used to the daily pictures of the killed and wounded people from Syria, so it’s not NEWS anymore.

The international official reactions to the ongoing massacres against civilians are disappointing.

Syrians share the same feelings of disappointment and isolation everywhere. They make the heaviest topic on the daily international news. However, very little is being done to help the people who are suffering in besieged parts of Syria, or in refugees’ camps outside.

After the Vacation Ends

The first two days after my vacation in Syria, I usually enjoy the flow of the water under a “warm” shower. The joy of all the things that I can do when I have access to electricity day and night. And most of all, I enjoy the feeling of safety that is lost there.

No one feels safe in Syria, everyone is threatened every minute, and everyone is struggling to stay alive.

But life never stops, and when I go there, I dance every day, and I party so hard with my friends.

It’s our celebration of life as it lasts.


Azal bar in Damascus. 2016. By Zeina Kanawati

Written by Zeina Kanawati.