Samer Khoury Fireworks He is playing in his backyard – as he has done all his long, boring five years – when his mum calls him in. Anmar Nassif The Syria Test They asked me a lot of questions. The first 20 were to verify if I was Syrian or not. Mega Arsheed Swedish Idol I wish I could see those people that snickered at my dreams. I could tell them how unreasonable dreams do sometimes come true. Mazen Bitar The Citadel I used to wake up at 7.30 everyday, eat breakfast with my mum and dad, and then set off to work. Elie Gerges An Artist's Travels I was always searching for new drawing methods. For five years, I’ve volunteered to work with people with special needs, and I have tried to come up with simple ways to help these people draw. Louay Al Roumani The coin seller “I have some ancient Byzantine and Roman coins. Want to take a look? I’ll give you a great price.” Rasha Faek The Keys To My Home I used to complain about my father’s repeated requests that I take my key with me every time I wanted to go out. Nazdar Youssef Morning Meditation Some of my most beautiful memories are of a short walk through the alleyways of Bab Sharqi on the way to my hospital shift. Yara Alhasbani My Father's Dream I began learning the principles of ballet at a modest sports club in my neighbourhood. Bayda Asbridge Weaving was the answer to my grief British-Syrian artist Bayda Asbridge’s mother died in Damascus in 2012. She was unable to attend the funeral. Ammar Azzouz The City of Black Stones My city is Homs, or as we Homsians call it: the city of black stones. Iman Albuhturuy My Bicycle My bicycle is my saviour. It offers pleasure, vitality. It has given me self assurance. Tètè (Grandmother) Amira Secrets of Preservation Syrians are specialists in preservation. Vegetables used to be soaked in salty water, then dried and stockpiled in glass jars. Lubna Mekdad My City Bosra al-Sham When the news breaks, my memories of you return, in letters soaked in cold blood. Oh my city. Samer Khoury My Village Hopes A great moment of my life is when I stand on top of our village’s mountain at sunset. It’s like holding your beloved while closing your eyes imagining a future in which both of you thrive. Mazen Bittar My Football Team Most of Syria’s football teams used to play on Fridays. As we were big fans of football, we used to wait impatiently for that day. Maher Abdo A Space to Paint I came to Istanbul almost ten months ago. I live in the house of friend of mine, in an area called Mecidiyeköy. Saif Mekdad Children's Laughter At the curve of the path by the nearby wheat field a laugh is flying... Salah Hamwi My Basketball Kit Everything started when I was ten years old. By that time I was already 170cm (5’6" feet) tall. Mays Nayfeh Bicycle Love Before I had my bike, “Wings”, I used to get around Damascus on foot. But then I decided to speed things up. Abdullah My Daughter's Face I recalled my daughter’s face. It was worth experiencing this torture, if she could just live like the rest of the world’s children. Samer Khoury Smile I walk daily through Damascus, from the south to the west, and through the north. The city is Syria now – it has people from everywhere. Maya Deyri A Glass of Apricot What do you mean by a glass of apricot? Apricots grow on trees. You find them on a fruit stall, or hanging from a tree. Abdullah Allabwani The land we once had Alzabadany means “the Good” - a land that doesn't let a seed lie in vain, but nurtures it until it grows to become a tree and gives its produce to the good people. Esam Hamzeh A Beautiful Day in Ma'loula It was a very beautiful day when I went to visit the oldest Christian city in the world, in the countryside outside Damascus. That city is Ma'loula. Fadi Journey To A New Life The first time I played guitar... The date I'll never forget ... The trek through Europe's forests ... Khaled Alesmael The Vegetables Notebook In our house everything has a notebook, beginning with the shopkeeper’s monthly notebook, the provisioning notebook, the family notebook... Daniela Nofal Craving Broasted Not a single day goes by without something triggering a thought about Syria, my home or my childhood. Today, despite being a vegetarian for two years now, the trigger was a sudden craving for ‘broasted’ chicken. Esam Hamzeh Snapshots of Syria Esam Hamzeh is a Syrian artist based in London Rana Abdul Fattah Waiting “I pray every day for the souls of the dead and I read the Quran every morning, but something is wrong with my heart." Abdullah Alesmael Hayat's Creations She creates life in everything she sees and touches. Indeed she is hayat – life. Pauline Saadé Anthony A Stroll in Aleppo While visiting Aleppo in the summer of 2010, I invited my American-born husband to stroll through its streets, starting from our old house in Azizieh. Zakaria Alabdullah My Graduation One semester left before graduation! I called my dad and asked him if it was safe to fly back to Syria to do my last exams, for my last year? Firas A Londoner Before the war, people would ask me: “Where are you from?” And when I said: “From Syria,” many people would ask: “Where is Syria?”. Yasser Fallah Aleppo Markets When I was a little boy, I used to hear my father talking about the “Mdayene”, a name used by Aleppens to describe the old market. Yaser Ahmad Cartoon Yaser Ahmad is a Syrian cartoonist Khaled Alesmael Thursday, 9 o'clock Old Damascus. It’s the heart of the city, and in the heart of everyone who has visited it. It is in my dreams. It is my love. I care about its walls in the same way I care about the health of my grandmother. It warms me as if... Ammar Azzouz The artists of Homs Friends. Families. Lovers. Art companions. Here conversations were made on culture, art and the city. Shahed Easy Target My fondest memories are those of childhood – memories of playtime, of true friends that I miss in these foreign lands. Qisetna Guest Post: In Calais When I arrived in Calais I was very sorry I came. Hadaya Trees Die Standing Ghassan was the son of the old war veteran Mohammad Hassan Mehro and came from the small farming town of Jamaraya. Alaa Alboush Wandering Old Damascus for frozen lemonade “I’ll pay.” “No, I’ll pay.” “Last time you paid.” “So! I’ll pay this time too.” “Come on, Alaa, get ready to go to the shops." Ahmed Katish Not a Sign of Light The First Attempt to Leave Syria... The Return Zaina The Door to Everything I have been asked to write about my memories of Homs, the city where my parents were born, the one which for many years meant Syria to me and which sadly has become the prey of all human cruelties. Maha Mekdad Haurani Cinnamon In Bosra Esham, when a new baby is born, we serve a cup of hot cinnamon and home-grown walnuts. Anonymous Hometown I always miss the small town of Breeke, especially in the holidays. It's not a fancy place. Dima Mekdad Remembering the daily micro ride When the driver of a London double decker bus stops to let one more running figure on, it always leaves a smile on my face. Masa Kateb Flashbacks From Damascus I miss everything about Damascus, down to the smallest details. Maram Islambooli The Most Truthful Lie I saw the photo captured by my friend Suleiman years ago. A photo of a waste basket in a corner of one of Damascus's parks. Nader My Last Sweet Memory I fell in love with music when I was 15. I played drums, trumpet and trombone in the school band, but when I discovered the saxophone there was no looking back. Yasser Fallaha In the Souq “I need some dates, spices and zaatar halabi, Ramadan might be tomorrow”, my mum said to my dad. Salam Al-Nukta and Eyad Al-Khayat How I keep in touch with family in Syria I cannot see my family in Syria much, because it is so hard to get to them. So we send each other pictures on WhatsApp. Amr AlFaham Coffee Shops I miss the old coffee shops in Damascus, where time stopped hundreds of years ago. I miss the smell and the sound of bubbling water coming out of shishas, the laughters of tawleh players, the shouts and curses of card players. Massa Bitar Seeking the Jasmine Breeze I have lived my whole life, 17 years in Damascus, but for a long time I never realised or sensed the beauty of this place. Daniela Nofal The Smallest Gifts As a child, the trip to the grocery store was the highlight of my day. Maybe it was because I was allowed to go out, run around and contemplate adventures. Helen Carmichael Postcards from the Euphrates The Euphrates is stunning here: wide, dotted with tree covered islands and in the late afternoon sun it was a beguiling mixture of blues and greens. Massa Bitar The Next World Cup I think about the World Cup four years ago. All the cafes were full, with large screens. Dyana Frans' Hike Al Maseer is a group activity, a hike, in which people from all backgrounds, religions and beliefs come together. It takes place every year, and it would be led by Father Frans. Anonymous The Arch Sometimes I try to avoid saying I'm from Syria, just to avoid talking about it. I don't think people understand. Maybe they have a good heart, but they approach it in the wrong way. Like when my colleague asked me: “How's your family?” I said: “They are OK, they don't... Masa Kateb Exploring Syria through basketball I scored my first basketball shot back when I was seven years old. I was too short and my arms were weak... S. Selka Moment of Departure In 2010, Sami said goodbye to his father. He was going to Britain, his second home, with the hope of coming back to the Jasmine City in the summer of 2011. Yara Shammaa One Word My voice is filling every hole in the air. Never in my life did I think I had such an ability to scream. Yasser & Rima Little Details I left Syria on 22 July 2012. The main reason was the search for security. It is the same reason everyone leaves Syria nowadays. Dyana Love in a strange land The UK was very different from Syria – 800 degrees different. When I was in Damascus, I didn't really consider myself living any more. Ahmad Katlish A Long Deep Breath While everyone talks about death rates in Syria, what I picture is a friend back there playing her trumpet. Deborah Felmeth Remember Me In 2002, I was on the Queen of the rivers, the Euphrates, with my good friend Selina, a Dutch woman. You know how you’re on a river, and you see someone, and you know if you go round this curve in the river, and they keep running along the bank,... Anonymous Street Musician Growing up in Salamiyah, a city near Homs, my parents made our home a musical environment. Lyana Darwish Aleppo Days These are murky and bitter days in Aleppo, days of endless exhaustion. I can’t escape my situation. Khodor Adrees The singing children of Al-Hassakah I remember, when we were young and winter came, how the people’s faces looked.