#FollowMeIntoSyria to see how #LifeGoesOn

Published October 23rd, 2016 - 17:26 GMT

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A Dubai-based designer is using social media to open minds and hearts to her homeland, battle-torn Syria. On Instagram account #FollowMeInto Syria, Siba Mohtadi posts gorgeous images that contradict mainstream coverage of the war and monumental humanitarian crisis ongoing in the Syrian Arab Republic.

When did Instagram first come on your radar? Probably it was from viral postings by a Russian photographer, one of the first Instagrammers to attract global attention. In 2011, Murad Osmann’s "Follow Me" series riffed his then-girlfriend’s attempts to stop his obsessive picture-taking.  As she pulled him away, he shot that instead, and a series was born of him being led by the hand through some of the world's most iconic scenery. The couple married last year, and in addition to a wife, he now has 4.4 million Instagram followers.

Syrian-born Mohtadi riffs on Osmann’s concept, limiting her settings to still-beautiful Syria, where hotels and cafes are open for business, people go about their daily lives, and nature thrives. See the country as she does, then share this story to show the world how amazing Syria still is.

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The Damascus borough of Bab Tuma (meaning 'Thomas’ Gate') contains one of the seven gates within the old walled city. Named for one of Christ's 12 apostles, it's an important landmark of early Christianity, now the Northern Levant seat of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches.
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Image 1 of 7:  1 / 7The Damascus borough of Bab Tuma (meaning "Thomas’ Gate") contains one of the seven gates within the old walled city. Named for one of Christ's 12 apostles, it's an important landmark of early Christianity, now the Northern Levant seat of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches.

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Most of Mohtadi's pictures feature Damascus. She said, 'I did this project because my heart bleeds with love for Syria. All you hear is the devastation of war, the pain and tears in people's eyes. I can't pretend that we don't have war, I can't pretend that we are not hurting, but I can show you the beautiful country we love, that we call home.'
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Image 2 of 7:  2 / 7Most of Mohtadi's pictures feature Damascus. She said, "I did this project because my heart bleeds with love for Syria. All you hear is the devastation of war, the pain and tears in people's eyes. I can't pretend that we don't have war, I can't pretend that we are not hurting, but I can show you the beautiful country we love, that we call home."

Enlarge
Mohdati captures details of both public and private spaces, including lovely old Damascus homes. Much Islamic architecture relies on an enduring architectural form - the courtyard house - which places interior rooms around a central open space, invisible from the street. These images allow us a peek into Damescene daily life.
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Image 3 of 7:  3 / 7Mohdati captures details of both public and private spaces, including lovely old Damascus homes. Much Islamic architecture relies on an enduring architectural form - the courtyard house - which places interior rooms around a central open space, invisible from the street. These images allow us a peek into Damescene daily life.

Enlarge
This is Wadi al Kal3 in Latakia, Syria's principal port city and capital of the Latakia Governorate. About 70 miles from Cyprus, and inhabited for over 4,000 years, it was ruled at times by the Seleucids, Romans, Ummayads and Abbasids  It's now the seat of the Alawite State, and Syria's 5th-largest city.
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Image 4 of 7:  4 / 7This is Wadi al Kal3 in Latakia, Syria's principal port city and capital of the Latakia Governorate. About 70 miles from Cyprus, and inhabited for over 4,000 years, it was ruled at times by the Seleucids, Romans, Ummayads and Abbasids It's now the seat of the Alawite State, and Syria's 5th-largest city.

Enlarge
The backdrop for this shot is the Damascus' stone-built Old City near the 300-year-old af-Nofara café. Evening gatherings in this area usually featured 'hakawatis' - traditional reciter-performers of old Arab legends. But television and the internet caused audiences to dwindle. The war has silenced the remaining hakawatis.
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Image 5 of 7:  5 / 7The backdrop for this shot is the Damascus' stone-built Old City near the 300-year-old af-Nofara café. Evening gatherings in this area usually featured "hakawatis" - traditional reciter-performers of old Arab legends. But television and the internet caused audiences to dwindle. The war has silenced the remaining hakawatis.

Enlarge
The Great Mosque of Damascus, or Umayyad Mosque, one of the largest and oldest in the world, is considered as the fourth-holiest of Islamic sites. Legend has it that it holds the head of John the Baptist. Fortunately the war has not harmed this treasure, whereas it's namesake mosque in Aleppo was shelled in 2013, and its minaret toppled.
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Image 6 of 7:  6 / 7The Great Mosque of Damascus, or Umayyad Mosque, one of the largest and oldest in the world, is considered as the fourth-holiest of Islamic sites. Legend has it that it holds the head of John the Baptist. Fortunately the war has not harmed this treasure, whereas it's namesake mosque in Aleppo was shelled in 2013, and its minaret toppled.

Enlarge
The hooded figure in each shot is Mohtadi.  A graphic designer and professional photographer, she trained her brother to snap the images, which she staged and directed. Her current series was shot in Damascus, Tartus, Latakia, and Masyaf over a period of 15 days.  She plans to extend the project to wider Syria.
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Image 7 of 7:  7 / 7The hooded figure in each shot is Mohtadi. A graphic designer and professional photographer, she trained her brother to snap the images, which she staged and directed. Her current series was shot in Damascus, Tartus, Latakia, and Masyaf over a period of 15 days. She plans to extend the project to wider Syria.

Enlarge

1

The Damascus borough of Bab Tuma (meaning 'Thomas’ Gate') contains one of the seven gates within the old walled city. Named for one of Christ's 12 apostles, it's an important landmark of early Christianity, now the Northern Levant seat of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches.

Image 1 of 7The Damascus borough of Bab Tuma (meaning "Thomas’ Gate") contains one of the seven gates within the old walled city. Named for one of Christ's 12 apostles, it's an important landmark of early Christianity, now the Northern Levant seat of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches.

2

Most of Mohtadi's pictures feature Damascus. She said, 'I did this project because my heart bleeds with love for Syria. All you hear is the devastation of war, the pain and tears in people's eyes. I can't pretend that we don't have war, I can't pretend that we are not hurting, but I can show you the beautiful country we love, that we call home.'

Image 2 of 7Most of Mohtadi's pictures feature Damascus. She said, "I did this project because my heart bleeds with love for Syria. All you hear is the devastation of war, the pain and tears in people's eyes. I can't pretend that we don't have war, I can't pretend that we are not hurting, but I can show you the beautiful country we love, that we call home."

3

Mohdati captures details of both public and private spaces, including lovely old Damascus homes. Much Islamic architecture relies on an enduring architectural form - the courtyard house - which places interior rooms around a central open space, invisible from the street. These images allow us a peek into Damescene daily life.

Image 3 of 7Mohdati captures details of both public and private spaces, including lovely old Damascus homes. Much Islamic architecture relies on an enduring architectural form - the courtyard house - which places interior rooms around a central open space, invisible from the street. These images allow us a peek into Damescene daily life.

4

This is Wadi al Kal3 in Latakia, Syria's principal port city and capital of the Latakia Governorate. About 70 miles from Cyprus, and inhabited for over 4,000 years, it was ruled at times by the Seleucids, Romans, Ummayads and Abbasids  It's now the seat of the Alawite State, and Syria's 5th-largest city.

Image 4 of 7This is Wadi al Kal3 in Latakia, Syria's principal port city and capital of the Latakia Governorate. About 70 miles from Cyprus, and inhabited for over 4,000 years, it was ruled at times by the Seleucids, Romans, Ummayads and Abbasids It's now the seat of the Alawite State, and Syria's 5th-largest city.

5

The backdrop for this shot is the Damascus' stone-built Old City near the 300-year-old af-Nofara café. Evening gatherings in this area usually featured 'hakawatis' - traditional reciter-performers of old Arab legends. But television and the internet caused audiences to dwindle. The war has silenced the remaining hakawatis.

Image 5 of 7The backdrop for this shot is the Damascus' stone-built Old City near the 300-year-old af-Nofara café. Evening gatherings in this area usually featured "hakawatis" - traditional reciter-performers of old Arab legends. But television and the internet caused audiences to dwindle. The war has silenced the remaining hakawatis.

6

The Great Mosque of Damascus, or Umayyad Mosque, one of the largest and oldest in the world, is considered as the fourth-holiest of Islamic sites. Legend has it that it holds the head of John the Baptist. Fortunately the war has not harmed this treasure, whereas it's namesake mosque in Aleppo was shelled in 2013, and its minaret toppled.

Image 6 of 7The Great Mosque of Damascus, or Umayyad Mosque, one of the largest and oldest in the world, is considered as the fourth-holiest of Islamic sites. Legend has it that it holds the head of John the Baptist. Fortunately the war has not harmed this treasure, whereas it's namesake mosque in Aleppo was shelled in 2013, and its minaret toppled.

7

The hooded figure in each shot is Mohtadi.  A graphic designer and professional photographer, she trained her brother to snap the images, which she staged and directed. Her current series was shot in Damascus, Tartus, Latakia, and Masyaf over a period of 15 days.  She plans to extend the project to wider Syria.

Image 7 of 7The hooded figure in each shot is Mohtadi. A graphic designer and professional photographer, she trained her brother to snap the images, which she staged and directed. Her current series was shot in Damascus, Tartus, Latakia, and Masyaf over a period of 15 days. She plans to extend the project to wider Syria.

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