Love letter to Damascus

Post date: 26-Jun-2013 10:33:39

On the 13th July 2013 we will be eating Syrian food in aid of the work MSF and my friend John is doing in the desperately needed aid camps in and around Syria.

My photographer friend John Wreford wrote this very moving piece about leaving Damascus and the country he loves, where his friends have been killed and displaced in the civil war.

Ten years ago almost to the day, having sold my house and given all my possessions to charity I set off for Damascus (feel free to add cliche) I had no plan other than to combine my fascination of the Middle East with my love of photography.

Crikey what an extraordinary journey its been, poets, pimps and presidents, from regeneration to revolution it has been one incredible experience after another.

In the end circumstances conspired against me, like the millions of Syrians fleeing the country I did not want to leave my home and life but I was unable to earn a living and when I did decide to leave the government decided otherwise and decided I was worthy of (another) investigation, permission to leave was denied, in effect for the last three months I have been held under house arrest.

I was soon introduced to a guy who could smuggle me out for $500 but this would prevent me ever returning so in the end after two visits to state security and paying $500 in bribes I eventually left legally and will return the first chance I get

I love you all, I love you Damascus.

John left Damascus to live in Istanbul, and promptly documented the resistance movement in Taksim Square. As another friend put it - "Can't you stay out of trouble?"

He then headed off to the Syrian border - "hoping to make 26,000 new friends". He is now working in a Refugee camp at Atmeh, Syria. That's him on the left, with the camera, of course. Zeitouna Camp is home to 21,000 internally displaced Syrians.

John, you are an amazing person and I am proud to be your friend.

If you'd like to see more of John's photography please click here

We will be cooking:

Sabenirh Bezzet - Spinach and onions with spices, one of our most popular dishes (v)

Kibbeh Bel Ferroun - Quince and Pomegranate Kibbeh, truly a “feast” dish

Hirak Isbaoo - Fabulous Lentil dish from “Naranje”, arguably the best restaurant in Damascus, if it still exists (v). This is a speciality of the North East of Syria.

Mutabal Kusa - Courgette pulp gently fried with garlic (v)

Hummous - "so rich and velvety smooth you could slip into a hotel room with it and lose an afternoon" as one reviewer said (v)

Yehlanji - Vegetarian rice stuffed vegetables (v)

Tabbouleh - Parsley and Burghul salad (v)

Labna - Home made cream cheese balls (v)

Falafel – homemade and really, really good (v)

Mahshi Batinjaan – lamb stuffed aubergines in a pomegranate sauce

Fattoush - Typical Syrian salad with croutons (v)

Fasolia Bzait - Green Bean Mezze (v)

Homemade Syrian Cheese and Za’atar Bread

Arabic Bread and Olives

Assabih b'Sutlaj – delicious crispy custard stuffed rolls, a speciality of the Aleppo Jews

For more photos of the fascinating Syria we are losing, click here to go to an album on Facebook

Please e-mail us with bookings on

Price will be £45 of which £35 will go direct to MSF to help with their work there.