The ancient tetrapylon in Palmyra. Dan Bernard /

By Rebecca Drew

A THOUGHT-PROVOKING series of images by a British photographer have been released showing what Syria was like just before its six-year civil war broke out.

Palmyra. Dan Bernard /

The stunning collection of photographs shows Aleppo’s citadel which is now in ruins, the destroyed Roman Theatre and ancient tetrapylon historical ruins of Palmyra and the stunning UNESCO world heritage site of the Umayyad mosque, Aleppo which was built between the 8th and 13th centuries.

Citadel Aleppo. Dan Bernard /

Other pictures show a couple of carefree boys having a water fight in the street, people relaxing in Aleppo’s juice bars and traffic in Homs going by.

The spectacular shots were taken by photographer, Dan Bernard (49) on a visit to Syria in 2010. Dan used a Nikon D300 to capture his pictures.


Boys playing in Aleppo. Dan Bernard /

“Syria before the conflict had always intrigued me as a great location for raw un-pretentious landscape photography. I wasn’t wrong. It was the most stunning place imaginable, great food, lovely people and beautiful landscapes,” said Dan.

“In my pictures, I see everyday life, Palmyra is an ancient World Heritage site a few minutes from the town centre, you just walk in and immerse yourself, it’s epic in scale and heritage, Aleppo was the same and so was Krak de Chevalier.


Roman Theatre at Palmyra. Dan Bernard /

“A few months later they were on the verge of destruction, the tranquil scenes, back streets and castle walls will not be the same for decades.”

The Syrian civil war started in March 2011 in the city of Deraa when peaceful protests started to release children who were arrested for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall.


Homs. Dan Bernard /

The unrest is now between soldiers who support the president, Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the rebels who don’t want him to be in power anymore. More than 300, 000 people have died so far.

“Syria was an open accessible country, peaceful tranquil and utterly beautiful,” added Dan.


Entrance to the Citadel, Aleppo. Dan Bernard /

“It felt safe and somewhere you could just exist and be yourself, now it is synonymous with violence and destruction.

“These public places were meant to be enjoyed, loved and admired – you sensed their pride in such an open country.


Juice bars, Aleppo. Dan Bernard /

“Most people can’t believe we were there so recently and came back raving about it, as a great place to go on holiday.”