It is no secret to those who know me, that I love the culture and the people I have met while traveling in Jordan and I am keen to explore the rest of the Middle East. While the mainstream media has largely stopped reporting on the “war” in Syria, there is still a lot of conflict in pockets of the country, there are entire neighborhoods in ruin and there are tough requirements to gain entry for visitors, although tourist visas are being issued.
Who is visiting Syria in 2023?
Before the Arab Spring, statistics showed over 8 million tourists visited Syria. In 2019, the government boasted that 1.5 million “tourists” have come to Syria, a statistic that is likely inflated and cannot be verified. Perhaps it is more likely that 1.5 million people have crossed the recently-opened border with Jordan or come in via other means but when you compare its neighbour Jordan, only receiving its 1 millionth visitor to Petra in November 2019, it seems far-fetched, to me anyway, that a country at war, has had more tourists than a peaceful kingdom with a vast tourism board!
What is the Industry Saying?
Well the blogging community is happy to discuss those that are visiting, many have very strong opinions on whether or not they will visit. Many fear that visiting legitimizes the Assad regime. Others are not interested in visiting a war zone. Others are unsure if it is safe, but long to visit one day. Others want to go, but would never visit on a state-sponsored trip. And some want to visit, but recognize that now is not the right time.
Submitted by Stephanie Craig from History Fangirl
Submitted by Cherene Saradar from Wandering Redhead
What are those who are going to Syria saying?
2019 tourism in Syria is not your usual traveller, think small groups of 55+ Europeans, here for the historical and archaeological sites, it is the young, educated influencer. Some are visiting on state-sponsored trips, while others visit on their own.
Eva zu Beck an influencer, shared her take below.
Another influencer, Joan Torres has put his experience on his website.
View this post on Instagram
A little boy riding his bike in the destroyed part of Aleppo. ❤️ One of the things that surprised me the most about visiting Syria, therefore, visiting a post-war zone, was the capacity of humans to adapt to any sort of situation, no matter how hard it can be. ❤️ When people in the West think of war, we tend to think that the different cities are immersed in the deepest chaos, where life is not possible. ❤️ Whereas this can be partially true, it is important to know that the reality is a little bit different. ❤️ You should know that Aleppo is a huge city that used to be home to several million people and the occupied part used to be a not small percentage of the city. ❤️ This means that, in the non-occupied part of Aleppo, life was going on: ❤️ Universities, markets, shops, and cinemas were open, as well as many fancy restaurants where you could enjoy some local cuisine over a glass of local wine. ❤️ However, the situation was far from ideal, in a way that, for a long time, there were no electricity and other basic services and, from time to time, the Islamic rebel groups were launching mortars into the non-occupied part of the city. ❤️ For these reasons, many people Syrians decided to leave Aleppo but, at the same time, many people decided to stay. ❤️ Why did you decide to stay? – I asked my Couchsurfing host. ❤️ Because if I had left, the terrorists would have won – He told me. ❤️ Today, the Syrian people are coming back to the destroyed part of the Old City and, very slowly, you see some small businesses opening up from among the ruins.
This article is probably the most well-written article I have seen of late, something I could not even cover. It talks about the dangers for Syrians, who cannot come home, the dangers to journalists, many of whom disappear, and the increase in travel bloggers, who are, for the most part, roaming the country freely and documenting the best ways for a tourist to see the country. Have a read of it The Foreign Invasion of the Travel Blogger.
Here is another one, which gets into the problematic type of coverage that influencers and bloggers are pushing out on their channels. Read it here: Syrias’s Tourism Industry is Making a Comeback: But it is controversial
Final Thoughts on Syria Safety and Travel for 2020
While my thoughts do not come out as eloquently as others, overall, I will not be visiting Syria in 2020, although I long to see the Damascus of old, the lively celebrations and the archaeological wonders in the country. Even with an Arabic speaking boyfriend, the unknown detentions for taking photos or for nothing other than suspicions is not a situation I will put myself in.
Seeing the negative feeling towards refugees from Syria in most of the world, my heart longs for their homeland to be at peace and for those who want to return to be able to, safely. For those who have made new lives in new countries, I hope they can thrive without persecution and speak fondly of their home, and visit it safely.
Lindsay fell in love with Jordan when she first visited in 2016. She now goes back every year to explore more of this special place. Lindsay is also the owner of Amman Food Tours, a social enterprise that is women-owned and hires local female guides. This project provides meaningful employment for women in Amman.