For the past three years the residents of Damascus have become used to living in close proximity to the war. The sounds of explosions and artillery bombardments have become as usual for the citizens of Damascus as the sounds of the city’s daily traffic jams.

Car owners have switched off their car alarms so that they’ll stop disturbing the neighborhoods where they live. The pigeons at Marzhi Square still take flight at the sounds of explosions, but people have become used to the sounds of war.

Damascus’ old town is impressive with a beauty and calmness that has survived for centuries whilst many conflicts and wars were fought around it. The air, filled with the aromas of spices, makes you feel drunk. But that’s only in the old city. A suburb of the city called Ghouta, which in Arabic means “gardens,” is a place where many poor and uneducated Syrians used to live, and has become a stronghold for the uprising and fighters of the Free Syrian Army.

It can be a deadly mistake to go there from the old town. In some places, just crossing a highway can suddenly land you in rebel-controlled territory. But the city still lives its own life with open shops, hookah clubs, busy streets and checkpoints every two hundred meters. People are still smiling but everyone knows that he can be killed at any time and their beloved mysterious and ancient city can be destroyed.

Sergey Ponomarev

The music that accompanies this story is by the popular Syrian folk singer, Omar Souleyman.
Souleyman has left Syria to find safety in Turkey. “There is really no more music in Syria. The darkness of war has taken over”, he toldĀ  the IndependentĀ In a recent interview.