Hama: Faces from a Forsaken City

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 | Hamah, Syria (map)

A fruit seller and his tea, July 2005. Hama, Syria.
Since its vibrant, idealistic beginnings eight months ago, the Arab Spring has splintered into many different summers. The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia—the Spring's most successful by any measure—have dissolved into banal squabbles over electoral systems and constitutional provisions and party politics, as they should. The aspirations of Bahraini democrats were brutally silenced, but Moroccans, Jordanians, and a few others may still hope to see some small good emerge. Less promising is the civil war in Libya and, perhaps not far behind it, similar disintegration in Yemen and in Syria.

The Syrian case is particularly troubling to me. That's not because, after a summer of Arabic study there, I pretend to know the country, its people, or its politics well. Rather, it's because I have never genuinely loved a place that was not my home the way I loved Syria. Nowhere else have I met