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Sneha Pillai
Sneha Pillai

'Syria—Always Beautiful,' really?

  • A boy rides a bicycle near damaged buildings in the rebel-held area of Old Aleppo, Syria | Reuters
  • Omran Daqneesh after he was rescued following an airstrike in the rebel-held al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria | Reuters
  • A view of tents housing internally displaced people in Atma camp, in Idlib Governorate, Syria | Reuters

The Syrian Ministry of Tourism wants you to forget about the ongoing civil war, and instead plan a visit to the country's expansive Mediterranean coastline and lush green landscapes

The Syrian Ministry of Tourism, on Monday, released a new promotional video clip, inviting tourists to the country's expansive Mediterranean coastline and lush green landscapes.

The one minute and 43 second-long video opens with a drone footage of a tourist cutting across crystal blue ocean waves on a jet ski. As you recognise the soundtrack as an upbeat remix of Alan Walker’s Faded, the camera tilts up to the rhythm to give you the first glimpse of the coastal city of Tartous, complete with a sun-kissed beach playing host to a large number of relaxed people who are sun-bathing and swimming in the sea. Look further and you see a well laid-out city complete with beautiful green stretches. The video ends with “Syria—Always Beautiful”, written across your screen. But, the video wants you see the people who love being where there are, on a Syrian beach.

Recently, in an attempt to boost tourism in the country, President Bashar al-Assad-backed Syrian Ministry of Tourism released a series of feel-good promotional videos on its official social media pages. Titled 'Syria from the Sky', another video shows breathtaking aerial views of the country's ancient sites, including the monumental ruins at Palmyra, a World Heritage Site.

Yes, this is Syria, but before an ongoing five-year-long civil war, which has already claimed the lives of almost half a million people and displaced millions, tore it apart. It not only had beautiful beaches but also boasted of a vast number of historical sites marked among World Heritage Sites. Be it the ancient city of Aleppo, most of which is now buried under debris, or Damascus, which is presently held by rebels, or Palmyra, which, until recently, was under the control of the Islamic State. Syria was a country that was not only modern, but tolerant, too, with buzzing markets and a rich food culture. However, Syria, today, is far from anything that it was once known for, or is rather shown in the video.

On Thursday, a Syrian news outlet, Al-Masdar News, reported: “The video shows Syria’s appealing beaches on the Mediterranean coast. The coastal areas of Latakia and Tartous have virtually been untouched by the war.”

In May, a series of car bombs and suicide bombings in Jableh and Tartous (yes, the city from the video) left nearly 150 people dead and 200 wounded. The port city of Latakia has witnessed violence as recently as in August, when the Syrian Armed Forces launched a new offensive in the northeastern countryside.

Just two weeks ago, a heartbreaking video of a five-year-old dazed and bloodied Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, who was rescued from a destroyed building in Aleppo after an air strike, stirred the conscience of humanity. The video, released by Aleppo Media Centre, immediately went viral on social media, causing global outrage.

The Syrian Tourism Ministry may choose to bury its head in the sand and paint a rosy picture of the country, but how many tourists, even adventure seekers, would want to holiday on the debris of a beautiful country that Syria once was.

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Topics : #Syria | #Tourism

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