Syria and Turkey commentary

EXPANDED 2016 EDITION – “My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis”

MHID cover 3rd edition

This 2016 third edition has two extra chapters added at the end, bringing the crisis up to date and describing my return to Damascus to re-take the house from greedy and unscrupulous war profiteers who had stolen it, on the assumption that I would never return. It was unquestionably the most exciting two weeks of my life, and it was a miracle that I succeeded, against all the odds.

A unique perspective on the ongoing Syrian crisis with a deep understanding of the complexities of Syria’s society

306 pages

 February 2016

Haus Publishing Ltd. +44(0)20 7838 9055




(The Daily Mail MUST READS, 12 May 2016)


(The Economist 20 February 2016, Damascus Love Story)


(Hurriyet Daily News 12 September 2015 ‘My House in Damascus’ aims to humanise Syria’s tragic situation)


(‘Surely among the best and most sensitive of the hundreds published since the Syrian war erupted’ 10 September 2015)


“How one woman’s luxury Damascus villa became a refugee camp”, “..moving, powerful new book”

http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1423819.ece  ” echoing … Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons… written with the pace of a novel and the colour of the best travel writing… a learned encyclopedia of Syrian history, of the Arabs and their language and traditions, of Islamic art and architecture, and more”.

https://www.facebook.com/hauspublishing Review in The Tablet, “written with honesty, wit and affection”.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/My-House-Damascus-Inside-Syrian/dp/190832399X (36 five-star reviews)






Diana Darke is a fluent Arabic speaker and has specialised in the Middle East for over 30 years. The owner of an old
courtyard house within the walls of Old Damascus, she is well known as an authority on Syria and has written for  the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph, the
Guardian, the Financial Times and the BBC. Diana Darke is the author of several guides to Syria and Eastern Turkey.

How did Syria’s revolution lose its way? This book provides a human context to the revolution, explains the realities on the ground inside the country and why Syria was always going to be different to other ‘Arab-Spring’ countries. Woven into the story of buying and restoring an ancient courtyard house in the heart of Old Damascus, are layer upon layer of Syrian history, philosophy, art and architecture, the accumulation of the author’s years of meticulous research and academic study. The richness and diversity of Syrian society are explored, while its natural creativity and humour are revealed through its characters. In them lies the message of hope for a better future, as these are the strengths that will endure and help lead Syria forward though its current crisis.


A proportion of proceeds (15%) will be donated to a special fund for Syrian Higher Education administered by the Said Foundation:


The 'secret ceiling', an accidental discovery, that comes to represent the multi-coloured complexity of Syrian society [DD, 2013]

The ‘secret ceiling’, an accidental discovery, that comes to represent the multi-coloured complexity of Syrian society [DD, 2014]



34 thoughts on “EXPANDED 2016 EDITION – “My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis”

  1. Walked past your house and wondered who lived there. You! My home was in Souk Saruja where my heart still is. Here’s a link to my book about Syria: http://wp.me.p1Frlu-2k

  2. Thanks, Mary, for taking the trouble to comment. Sorry about the delay in replying. I’ve been away in Eastern Turkey for a new edition of the guidebook, but kept finding myself on the Syrian border. So much happening, and it’s important to keep raising awareness. Did you hear my BBC From Our Own Correspondent piece ‘A House in Damascus’? It’s here, in case you missed it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0368kp4/From_Our_Own_Correspondent_A_House_in_Damascus/
    Thanks again,

    • Anne Michaux on said:

      Again not related, but I heard you on Radio 4 this morning and would love to read your book – but my eyes are such that I have to rely on Audible.co.uk. No luck there – but if you ever have the time to offer it, I’m sure many others would also enjoy My House in Damascus.

      • I would certainly be happy to record an audio book and will suggest it to the publishers. Thank you for your interest and for taking the time and trouble to make your suggestion.

      • Dear Luca

        Don’t worry, you will be absolutely fine on a trip to that region. I would encourage you to go ahead and enjoy it and I’ll look forward to hearing how you get on.

        Best wishes


    • Luca Savelli on said:

      Dear Diana,

      sorry to write to you here but I cannot find an email address for you!

      I am planning to go to Southern/Eastern Turkey starting in Gazientep, and then following on to Urfa, Harran, Mardin, Nemrut and Diyarbakir ( I am sure a couple of other places in that area that I cannot remember off the top of my head- in any case I have your guide book!), but was wondering whether you thought it was currently safe with ISIS etc not far over the border. I can see the FCO website have put the border as dangerous but they are always so over-cautious, and I am sure the Turks keep a tight border…so any actual experienced advice would be welcome.

      I am well travelled and an archaeologist so I am looking forward to going (I drove from Istanbul to Antioch 18 months ago and loved it).

      Best wishes,

      Luca Savelli (lucasavelli@hotmail.com)

  3. Apologies for using this reply on a non related subject but I couldn’t find your e-mail.

    I’m from BOAT, in Oxford, and we are trying to get hold of one you, if your one of our donors to sort out Gift Aid.

    If this doesn’t make sense please ignore it, but if it does, please contact me on

  4. Luca Savelli on said:

    Thank you Diana.

  5. Just read your impressive book, having followed your blog, while waiting for an appendix to be removed. A wonderful set of images to absorb while drifting off into the pre-med. I run a school. Are you willing to speak to our 6 form students? They’d learn a great deal. Julian Thould, King Edward VI School, Southampton. incidentally, astonished to read at the end, just before going under the knife, that your house was supported by my brother-in-law (by marriage), Jonny Bourne. Bizarre.

  6. Archna Sharma on said:

    Diana your book is the only one I have read that gave a true ‘insider’s view’ of the Syrian revolution. It was wonderful to hear about the house and the country and at the same time incredibly sad to see your friends having to cope with such dire circumstances.

    I am in the middle of writing a short children’s book that is based in the Old City in Damascus. Unfortunately I have never been to the place but hope that it might be possible to do so in the future. I hope you won’t find this too troubling, but I had one quick question as part of my research that I haven’t been able to find the answer to anywhere: How often do the church bells ring in the Old City and at approximately what times? Do they all ring together, along with the the five times call to prayer from the mosques?

    I look forward to your answer. Thank you.

    • Thank you for appreciating what I am trying to do with the book. I am just back from two weeks in Damascus and is remarkable as ever – a truly timeless city in spite of the current circumstances.

      The church bells only ring on Sunday mornings, at the time of their main services, each church slightly different, and in no way related to the call to prayer timings. When they do coincide it is by chance.

  7. Archna Sharma on said:

    Diana, thank you for your response. I am intrigued that it is still possible to get in an out of Damascus! I presume the Old City is still relatively unscathed.

  8. Peter Hansen on said:

    Dear Diana, thank you for your book. I just finished it and didn’t want it to end. For me reading your book was re-living part of my life. My house was not as fortunate as yours – it was bombed, looted and burnt – in one of the rebel suburbs. Despite that, despite all that has happened to so many, there are good things in the Syrian people (well captured in your book) that will heal Syria and give it a brighter future – one day. May the suffering of the children end soon. Peter

    • Dear Peter, Your response to my book is very touching – thank you. I am just back from a rollercoaster fortnight in Damascus trying to regain possession of my house – my ex-lawyer and ex-owner were conniving together to steal it from me. Despite all the criminal acts and corruption, my overriding impression has been one of hope, based on the immense kindness and support I received during my stay from ordinary Syrian people who were horrified at the wickedness of the few. Like you, I firmly believe they will come through this, eventually. Diana

  9. yasin yousef on said:

    Dearest Mrs.Diana,

    Congratulations for ur great book “My House in Damascus”

    I am a syrin person and I love to read your book. Frankly speaking I can’t afford buying it. And I know that authers usually get free copies from the printing press, therefore, politely and gratefull, I request to have that book from your free copies, if that is possible, and I’ll be very very gratefull and thankful to you forevr and that’ll be eternal memory from you although we don’t know each other.
    * sorry ,I didn’t find your email therefore I wrote my message here
    Best regards

    yours ever cincerly


  10. Nabeel Meghjee on said:

    Hi Diana

    I just read your article on BBC and it was very well written!……I will be visiting Beirut and was wondering if you would consider it safe to drive over to Damascus for the day to visit some religious sites (Sayyidah Ruqayyah in the old city and Sayedah Zainab in Zainabiya suburb)

    I am getting mixed views on the Internet so I thought I would inquire with you since you traveled to Damascus recently….

    Do you think it is relatively safe to visit for the day?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much,


    • Yes, people do it all the time. The border crossing can be slow on the return to Lebanon, so you need to allow at least 6 hours for the Damascus-Beirut leg, often more, so doing it within one day is challenging. Better to reckon on spending the night in Damascus, unless you are prepared to return at night – the crossing is open 24 hours a day.Also make sure you have a visa, according to your nationality.

      • Nabeel Meghjee on said:

        Thank you so much for your response! Two quick follow ups:

        Is it safe to assume that the leg going from Beirut to Damascus can take 2-3 hrs max (or is that too short?)

        And would there be any extra safety concerns returning from Damascus to Beirut after nightfall?

        I really appreciate your advice…..Sincere thanks for the help! I am a Canadian citizen….

  11. Patricia Murra on said:

    Dear Diana; i just want to tell you how muchos i enjoyed your book.
    I am a great admirer of middle eastern culture;my grandparents came e to México from beitlehem.
    I have studied the arab language; for some years; abd I hope i will visit your house un Damascus some day; and visit the cities you talk about un your book.
    I hope to meet you some day. Thank you !!

    Patricia Murra

    • Thank you Patricia, for taking the trouble to write to me. I really appreciate it and am very glad that you enjoyed the book. Yes, one day let us hope that you can visit the house in Damascus. In the meantime do let me know if ever you visit London where I am based at the moment.
      All best wishes, Diana

  12. Guines on said:

    I like to help an Yazidi family individual by providing a room in my home so that he or she can help others of their community. Where is the best contact for this?

  13. Guines on said:

    Thank you Diana for this information. I have read many articles of the Christian Yazidi but hardly any article would provide where to help. I am in the US, State of Pennsylvania.
    God bless you,


  14. David Rodger on said:

    Dear Diana,

    Is there a charity which would specially help such Syrian refugees as have reached the UK? I wish I could trace the fate of Firaaz, a dental mechanic who helped me when I got lost in Damascus in 2009, but, failing that, giving more focused help in the UK as well as donating to the more widespread well known charities might help to fill a donor gap.

    Best wishes and thank you for your many well-informed insights,


  15. I’m very excited to have found out about your book. I have a great Syrian/Italian friend who has recently restored an ancient house after some years of work, just off Straight Street. She is now in Italy, with her Syrian Christian family, leaving some homeless families (hopefully safely) in her home. I LOVED Damascus and I continue to feel terribly sad about the current events; it now seems unbelievable that anything like this could have ever happened there, in a land of such hospitable and generous people; the best I’ve ever met! 🙂

    • Very good to hear about your friend, and I hope her house continues to be safe. I too have many friends still in Damascus, wondering what their future holds, from all walks of life and both Muslim and Christian. I have just completed revisions and two new chapters for the third edition of the book, which will be published late January 2016, bringing the story completely up to date, as there have many developments in the course of the last year! All best wishes, Diana

      • And now I’ve read your book; truely excellent:) So many parallels with my friend Graziella’s ancient beautiful house and your writing reminds me of the so many things I enjoyed about that city. In hope! … although it’s very hard now to see any light on the horizon for Syria, but I’m still an optimist that good can/should win

  16. Patricia Murra on said:

    Dear Diana, I just came back to Mexico, from my trip to Jerusalem and the west bank,I followed your advice to visit Sebastia,and I was really amazed,these treasure, and no one in charge to preserve them,I also visited the Mosk where the remains of Jhon the Baptist were found!,When I told my guide where I wanted to go, he laughed at me, saying there was not any thing there!after the visit he was amazed!, thank you very much! Patricia Murra

  17. That’s wonderful – I’m so glad you took the trouble to visit and see for yourself. When I was in Sebastia I bought a carnelian necklace made by a local Palestinian lady which I now wear regularly to remind me of the beauty of the place. Many more people need to come and see for themselves. Thanks for taking the trouble to comment here, Diana

  18. Hello Diana, I loved your book about your house in Damascus. It gives really also a new perspective on the actual situation in Syria. Tell me, is your Beit Baroudi the same house Suad Amiry, the Syrian-Palestinian writer and architect talks about in the book “My Damascus”.
    Best regards

  19. Hello Diana,
    I’ve read your book with delight and gratitude. Being half-Syrian, navigating the dynamic and sometimes fraught spaces between here and there, your inside voice spanning east and west feel necessary and deeply relevant.
    Is there a German translation of your book planned?
    Best regards

    • Hello Mayada,
      What a pleasure to get your message. Thank you. I am not aware of a German translation planned – my publishers, even though they are of German nationality but UK-based, tell me German publishers are very tough! My email is dianadarke@outlook.com if ever you want to be in touch.
      With warm wishes

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