21 Vintage Photos That Show What Syria Was Like 50 Years Ago

Syria has been at war for nearly four years. The most recognisable images of the country today depict bombed-out buildings, piles of rubble, and displaced citizens.

A collection of images taken fifty years earlier by Charles W. Cushman, an avid traveller and amateur photographer, are a stark contrast.

Though Syria saw a number of coups d’etat in the 1960s and in the decades before and after, Cushman’s photos of downtown Damascus in 1965 paint a more mundane picture, showing families gathering, men riding donkeys, and shoppers in bustling bazaars.

These photos are being shared with permission from the Indiana University Archives.

Two years before Cushman visited Damascus, Syria's government was overthrown in a coup d'etat.

The military then overthrew the ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party in 1966, the year after Cushman's visit.

But these photos show a more mundane side of the country, giving a rare glimpse into everyday life in the capital.

Below, a group travels along the small town road between Beirut and Damascus.

Women wear a range of religious garb.

Men wear western-style suits.

Many of Cushman's photos feature animals.

In the mid-60s, animals could be seen transporting goods through downtown Damascus. Cushman described this one as 'a full load.'

Sometimes, they also carried people.

'Big rider - small donkey' reads the description on this one.

The photos show bustling street shopping scenes as well.

Carts were piled high with fruit ...

... families went shopping together ...

... and peddlers carried their wares on their backs.

A minaret rises behind a busy market.

The downtown was packed with shoppers.

A packed street.

Cushman wrote on this photo, 'Syrian high-rise?'

The Barada river flowing through Damascus.

'Sheep all over the Damascus highway.'

Farmland rolling outside Damascus. Today, the city and the surrounding area are heavily contested between the Assad regime and Syria's various rebel groups.

See more fascinating photography...

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