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Eight years ago Floortje Dessing visited the then peaceful Syria for the TV program Channel 3 Travels.
At that time, she had no idea that the country was on the verge of a civil war. A conflict which has resulted in large sections of the country being destroyed, with an estimate of more than 300,000 deaths and nearly 9 million people fleeing the country.
Eight years later she has returned to make the same journey, and wherever possible, visit the same locations that now have an entirely different décor. In a two-part documentary series Floortje Returns to Syria, she offers a view of daily life in the torn land, a land at war.
What is daily life like in Damascus? What happened to the priest Paolo who welcomed all religions in his monastery? And how great is the devastation in the centuries-old temple city of Palmyra? Floortje not only returns to the locations she had visited before, she also meets the residents; Syrians who have remained in the country for various reasons. Such as the photographer Omar who is training young people to be journalists and a girl in Homs who has warm memories of the murdered Dutch priest Frans. And it turns out that there are a few Dutch people who have remained in the country all this time: in Damascus Floortje meets Nicole from Amsterdam who has a chocolate factory. Will she be able to continue her work there and will she be successful in continuing to maintain a ‘normal’ life in a country filled with so much devastation?
Floortje: “I too have also seen the images of the totally-destructive civil war in Syria: an on-going drama now for five years. I often thought about the journey I had made eight years ago and wondered how things were there now. Not only in the places I had visited before, but also with the people who lived there. How is it for the people to see their country being destroyed before their very eyes? Can you still lead a normal life there? And can you still think about having a future in the country? It turned out to be a difficult journey to make due to the local security issues, but thanks to in-depth preparations and help from people in the branch it was a success. I was able to visit nearly all of the places I visited eight years ago, and the war has clearly left its mark virtually everywhere. This journey to Syria was my most intense trip ever, and it made a great impression on me. I still often dream about it, but I believe that I have been able to sketch an image of what it is like for the population to live in a totally war-torn country.”
Floortje Dessing is the leading travel show presenter in the Netherlands. Since 1999 she has been traveling the world extensively as an anchor for numerous travel shows. She has visited some of the most impressive locations in the world and had a chance to meet people who choose to live a different life. This has led to the idea of the award winning series Floortje Naar Het Einde Van De Wereld.
Watch the episodes with english subtitles here: