The gardens of Damascus: can Syrians reconnect with nature?

An edited version of this article appeared online in the Middle East Eye on May 26, 2019.

By Alex Ray

“When people pluck these flowers, it’s like they are plucking my heart,” said an emotional Fareed Notafji as we drank sweet, strong ‘labourer’s tea’ in front of the guard shed at Damascus’s Botanic Gardens.

The sound of the fast-flowing Barada river accentuated the gardens’ dreamy setting beneath the old city walls.  The location made it possible to momentarily forget the ongoing war outside the Syrian capital.

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Snapshot: Amman’s scrap collectors

by Alex Ray
Below a five-star hotel in the West Amman suburb of Shmeisani, three young boys spend their Saturday morning scrounging for pieces of plastic, aluminium and other metals that can be sold for recycling.

Marwan sorting rubbish

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Beirut, beyond the Corniche

By Alex Ray

December 18, 2017

For every civilisation that has occupied modern-day Beirut, one asset has been central – its port. Nowadays the port district (Al Marfa in Arabic) has an air of neglect. It remains vital to the economic life of modern Beirut but is barely visible to most inhabitants of today’s sprawling, chaotic city.

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