Sorrow for Syria

There are many theories as to why Syria has disintegrated so rapidly: was the Assad regime successfully holding disparate elements together, or using terror for self-enrichment? 

One thing all returning travellers have said  is that the Syrians were a wonderful people to meet. The murderous years, the expulsion of millions of people, the scenes of refugees in overcrowded boats, the desperation to reach a safe haven...these are about as bad as it gets in modern times.

And then the destruction of the Temple of Baal at Palmyra meant the local people lost an international treasure. The newspapers talk of the modern city and the ancient city of Palmyra. To call such a humble modern settlement a city is interesting. Most houses in the town are no more than two floors high. The town occupies level ground bounded on one side by extensive date palm gardens, which gives the modern city its real name of Tadmur, which may be derived from the Semitic word for 'dates'. This name predates 'Palmyra' which appears about 1st century AD.

These photographs are a quiet tribute to the Syrians, their rich history, and our bafflement over what has unfolded.