Over black coffee most mornings I watch Al Jazeera News online – and shudder at the headline act:  the Syrian Civil War.

It screams at us daily.

War is ugly, we know this. But this one seems more brutally-inventive. 

Going beyond the conventional slaughter of bombs, bullets and massacres into mass starvation as a weapon, random barrel bombing and poison gassing of civilians, decapitations and crucifixions, suicide bombers and destruction of amazing ancient places. But I’m no expert: Maybe the ugliness of war is relative; that all violence is equally ugly?

And I – like most from the distance – switch off my pity, anger and sorrow soon after the media images recede. Yes, our faraway lives go on. Yet for me, I get a little choked up longer than your average Westerner, your average traveller, your average couch potato.

You see, I was there. Albeit, many years ago travelling as a 23-year-old backpacker wide-eyed and excited by the whole world. And seeing a totally different Syria.

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Walls of ancient Halibye Zalibye fortress next to Euphrates River in desert of eastern Syria, towards city of Deir e Zor. I ended up staying the night with a local Kurdish family after getting stuck in the desert.

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No stranger to war: the entrance bastion to the mighty Medieval fortress of Aleppo, which sits on a volcanic mound overlooking the city, and was once besieged by invading Mongol armies.

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LEFT: Schoolboys near Aleppo citadel. (I wonder who survives? Who’s a refugee? Who’s dead? who’s fighting who?) RIGHT: Inside Aleppo’s historic grand mosque (now heavily damaged) looking up towards the citadel.

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Panoramic – Roman era – ruins of ancient Palmyra in an oasis in Central Syria, as seen from the walls of a Medieval hill-top castle. What is left now, after ISIL?

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Soldiers guarding ruined city of Quneitra – destroyed by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and never rebuilt. It took military permission in Damascus to visit the area. RIGHT: Castle ruins of the Great Muslim Kurdish General – Saladdin, who beat back the invading European Crusaders during the Middle Ages; Ruins of Palmyra.

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Boy on the ancient water-wheels of Hama, near Homs, used since Roman times. But I believe these ones date from the Medieval period.

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North of Damascus is the very-early Christian settlement of Maalula. Not sure of its fate these days …

( Yes, I do have stories of my travels in Syria. But this is simply a pictorial reflection. My aged mirror to the images of today.)

Travels in Syria – 1989