After nearly two years, The Washington Post returned to government-held areas of Syria for the first time this month. Traveling to Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, I saw the destruction caused by the war, but also daily life that continues despite it.
When people think of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, they now think of barrel bombs and buildings in ruin. But on the government-held side, there is a surprising degree of normality. Toward the front lines, the war is more evident however. Aleppo's famed old souk lies right in the crosshairs, and is heavily damaged from the fighting.
During my last visit Homs had just been cleared of rebel forces. The level of destruction in the Old City, which had been encircled and bombarded for years, was shocking. Today, not a lot has changed.
Life in central Damascus has taken on a new sense of ease since a cease-fire was introduced last month. Incoming mortars are less common, and the city's souk was bustling. But Sayyidah Zainab, a Shiite shrine on the outskirts of Damascus, has been targeted by the Islamic State in bomb attacks in the past month.
These women and their kids have just left #Raqqa. Not, they say, because they are unhappy there, but for a trip to Lebanon to see their husbands before returning. "We don't need any interference from anyone," one says of life in the ISIS-controlled city. "We just want to live our lives in peace." Just before Humvees with Bashar and Nasrallah drive past in celebration of Ba'ath party anniversary. Such contrasting lives, all rubbing up next to each other. #Damascus #Syria
Back in #Damascus after almost 2 years, as a ceasefire of sorts brings a drop in violence. Shopkeepers here in the Old City's al-Hamadiyah Souk say more people are out and about since it began. But the sound of shells thudding out to the city's suburbs can still be heard as the sun sets. #Syria #middleeast #war #Damascus #shopping