From Syria with Love


From Syria with Love


ometime this year at least one unsuspecting couple that doesn’t keep up with the news, or know anybody else who does, is likely to find itself on a hellish honeymoon. On the plane there they’ll probably think of all the remarkable ruins they’re going to visit in Palmyra. Maybe they’ll plan a trip to one of the various beaches in Tartous, or take a walk through the old city of Damascus. Of course, once there, they’re going to wish they had Googled “Syria”. And once home, they’re bound to be taken in for questioning, or some light torture in the very least.

This couple is just an example of hundreds of people who are going to watch a Syrian Ministry of Tourism ad and think it would make for a lovely, cost-effective vacation. That’s right, I said the Syrian Ministry of Tourism ad. Because for some reason the country that has been in the news for the last five years for a civil war that has led to the deaths of about half a million people, has been posting videos on a Facebook page encouraging people to come for a visit and some frolic.

What the actual fuck is this supposed to mean? Is everything we read a lie? How is the Syrian tourism ministry even affording to make these videos? And what’s next? Maybe it’ll sell air raids as “lovely fireworks display”. Maybe release a new fitness video advocating beheadings as the best method to loose weight and give up smoking simultaneously. Or a “bomb” party that’s “gonna get lit af”.

If you think this is getting ridiculous, wait till you check out the actual ads. The first of the videos, a nearly two-minute ad titled “Syria — Always Beautiful”, is set to a track by Electronic Dance Music producer Alan Walker. It features a guy on a jet ski (presumably running from militants), people swarming the beach (probably looking for food), and building complexes (seconds before they were bombed, I’m guessing).

To be fair, Syria is not a tiny country, it’s slightly smaller than the state of Uttar Pradesh, so maybe not all of it is under siege. But shouldn’t they have put in a disclaimer in there somewhere? A one-line warning that you are susceptible to be attacked by rifle-wielding men in Humvees. Or that most of its population would rather go to Europe to live under flyovers with the constant threat of racism.

Another video titled “Aleppo … Life” couldn’t be more ironic if it had a British accent, considering about 2,50,000 in the city live under the constant fear of death.

It’s like if our government waited until the fourth Kashmir attack in a row to put out a Facebook ad with aerial shots of the LoC with the tagline: “Go Loco for the LoC.” Or with images of shots being fired at civilians with the tagline: “Free Shots for Everybody.” Maybe one over the area controlled by Maoists with the tagline: “You’ll Wish You Never Left.”

Sounds pretty ridiculous, right?

But that’s exactly what the Tourism Ministry of Syria has done. One video showcases the beaches of Tartous, which despite being a government-held area, keeps getting attacked. Another video titled “Aleppo … Life” couldn’t be more ironic if it had a British accent, considering about 2,50,000 in the city live under the constant fear of death. This video is set to the Game of Thrones opening soundtrack, so that is some kind of warning, I guess. But if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, and do by chance end up going to Aleppo and getting injured, fear not, one of the 35 doctors left in the city will probably look after you. If that isn’t enough encouragement for you, Bashar Assad has also announced that he’s going to “clean up the city” to use it as a “springboard” to win the country’s war. So good luck enjoying your evening walk down the city streets.

In all fairness, though, the videos are stunning. With the high production value, kickass music, and the natural beauty on display, the country looks like a pretty tempting travel destination. The land Syria is on is one of the oldest archaelogical sites in the world, and it has a long, beautiful coastline on the Mediterannean sea. It would make for the perfect tourist destination if it wasn’t for the warring factions, or the fact that it’s getting bombed by several countries all at once, or the constant threat of chemical attacks.

Anyway the Syrian Tourism Ministry clearly has some talented people on board. If it has to continue to make ads, maybe they should be more honest about the plight of its citizens – that may win them some sympathy. If not, I have a friend who’s looking for someone to shoot his wedding video, and I can’t think of a better candidate.