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I received a message on Instagram:

Hello Eduardo, I saw you amazing Travel pics. I wonder, have you been to Syria?” 

I replied: “No, but would LOVE to go” 

And he responded: I am Tour guide and tour operator in Syria, and I would LOVE to help you plan your trip to Syria.”  

And so it all began, with a simple conversation back in 2022 with a complete stranger on Instagram who told me he was a tour guide in Syria. We didn’t know each other, nor did we have any mutual acquaintances. It was just my spark of curiosity and wanderlust that kept the conversation going. During that same year, on a trip to Kyrgyzstan, I met two fellow travelers who had been to Syria months before, so while the idea of going sounded totally crazy to the rest of the world, it felt oddly plausible to me. Having traveled enough over the years, I was aware that not everything shown in the news reflected the reality of what was being lived.

Almost a year passed, and during that time, we were always in contact. I kept wondering, when would I go? Would I dare to go? And if I went, how long would my visit last? I felt not only curiosity about going there but sometimes I felt a bit lost when thinking of going there since no one around me thought it was a good idea. Then I asked myself, why do I want to visit Syria? Well, I knew I have always been very curious to know other cultures completely different from my own, including that of the Middle East. This region is so hospitable, so friendly towards visitors, so volatile in all senses of life, I just like it. In fact, I had planned to visit it along with Lebanon and Jordan in 2012, but fate had other plans back then, steering me towards Southeast Asia instead, which was not bad because that ended up being the best travel experience of my entire life. But the call of the Middle East persisted, beckoning me now to witness history unfolding from a unique vantage point.

Reflecting further on the question, I thought that going to a nation recently scarred by conflict grants a profound opportunity to bear witness to its narrative from an unparalleled angle. It’s a journey that carries an inherent duality—an act that may be perceived as somewhat self-centered, yet undeniably a privilege bestowed upon a select few. The connections forged with locals during such travels transcend mere acquaintance, delving into the realm of shared humanity where stories are exchanged and empathy flows freely. But it’s not just empathy, we also offer a glimmer of hope to those grappling with the aftermath of the devastation of war. And yes, despite the shadows of the turbulent past, I was looking forward to seeing the breathtaking landscapes, landmarks, and the still awe-inspiring architecture that they have. 

After months of deliberation and research, I made the decision, I was coming, but then a new question arose: how long would I immerse myself in Syria? Initially, we devised a plan—a 10-day trip spanning the ancient cities, from Damascus to Basraa, then onwards to Homs, Aleppo, and Palmyra. However, I told two persons that I was thinking of going; they told me I was crazy, that the authorities would kidnap me, yet, amidst the chorus of doubts, my decision remained unshaken. But I admit, the constant messages kept pressuring me, and it did take a toll; I reduced my visit to seven days, then I said I would go for five days, and finally, just before going, while I was already in Beirut, just for three days.

Days before, I knew from the guide that there would be another traveler. The guide put us in touch, and we met a few days before in the bustling streets of Beirut to get to know each other before embarking on this adventure. I hoped he would tell me that he knew the guide or that he had at least met someone who had traveled with him. It was not the case, only to realize that we were two intrepid souls in Beirut who had traveled literally thousands of kilometers to meet a guy we had never seen and of whom we had no reference, who sent a car with a stranger to pick us up each at our places of lodging in Beirut, and to take us by road to visit a country that literally all international travel agencies and governments in the world recommend not going under any circumstances, after having been largely destroyed in a senseless war—what could possibly go wrong?

I’ll tell you how it went in the next story 🙂

Eduardo Ríos Lasso

Eduardo Rios Lasso emerged as a writer alongside his doctor's development. Born and raised in Panama City, Panama, his journey has taken him around the globe to dozens of countries. Along the way, he found a passion for inquisitive travel writing – storytelling designed to explore and seek out positive life experiences while also sharing the common interests and challenges that bring different cultures together.

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