It makes me feel really sad. I have literally lost sleep over it, and thinking about it occasionally brings me close to tears.
A lot of people may not understand why - it's difficult to appreciate the beauty of a place if you haven't actually been there. You can look at pictures, but it really isn't the same:
|I have other pictures of Palmyra, Syria, but this one is of me. I"m standing at sunset at the crusader castle overlooking the ruins.|
I went inside a tomb in Memphis that dated back to the Old Kingdom in Egypt. (I don't have any pictures of that to show you - sorry) I didn't really understand how old the Old Kingdom was until I saw that tomb. It was amazingly well-preserved. The original paintings on the walls described life in Ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. Seated statues of a man and his wife sat in the center, to serve as vessels for their bas to return to earth, should their bodies fail to stand the test of time. It really struck me that humans have not fundamentally changed during the passage of time. We still care deeply about our family relationships, perform work to obtain food and clothing for our families (though the nature of that work has changed).
I don't feel as though I did a good job of explaining the profound impact these experiences had on me. It's something that, really, you need to experience for yourself to understand it.
A lot has happened in ten years. Egypt has a new government, and Syria is in the throes of a terrible civil war, and Isis has seized and/ or damaged some of these places.I've been teaching my children, and also the daughter of a friend, about Ancient Egypt during the past few weeks. I would like to take my family to visit Egypt again in the future, but I don't know if I will ever be able to. Egypt is arguably safer than Syria, but the political situation is still incredibly volatile. And I think I would feel more comfortable walking into a volcano than venturing into Syria right now.
It's funny - ten years ago, we saw the seeds of discontent with Mubarak's regime, so the Arab Spring came as no surprise. But when protests and clashes started happening in Syria, I was shocked. In 2004, Syria was a police state. We were told during our visit that we were probably safer there than anywhere else, because the movements of every person were tracked obsessively.
I still hope to return, someday, with my family. Egypt guards its antiquities pretty well, I think, but as for Syria? Maybe there will still be something left.