Why do I want to write about Syria?
Well, I’ve been trying – on and off, for years - but something has always got in the way. Work, family…and a kind of sadness.
I was very young, just twenty-three when I first went to Syria, to take part in an excavation in the north of the country at a village on the banks of the Euphrates and it left an impression on me that I’ve found hard to shake.
At that age you don’t forget those experiences, those moments of bliss, when everything is just right; a boat trip to the island of Arwad where there are remains from Phoenician times, sitting in the cool of the evening under a vast panoply of stars after a hot day in the field, strolling through Zenobia’s city in the heart of the Syrian desert.
I went to Syria four times to excavate and once to do my own research on ancient figurines in the museum in Aleppo. And despite not being in Syria for over twenty years, it is never far from my mind.
But life moves on and I left archaeology, started and finished other careers, and then the war in Syria began and doubts crept in.
I’d been trying to write about Syria for years. As my father was slowly forgetting, I was deliberately remembering. As my father’s world fragmented into a confusion of jumbled words and experiences, I was looking to fuse the slivers and scraps of memories into something meaningful.
But how can I write about those blissful experiences now? When it’s all so changed?
The problem is, I know the idea of writing about Syria won’t leave me until it’s done...
Read an extract from this upcoming memoir, Halima and the Embroidery.