Before ISIS: Hot Air Balloons Over Syria

Jun 27, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

Before ISIS: Hot Air Balloons Over Syria

Jun 27, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning
Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning

Entering Syria these days as a foreigner poses a serious risk and is hardly a recommended travel destination.

With over 300,000 estimated casualties since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, along with millions of others displaced, fleeing the country or left without sufficient food and drinking water, the war is the first and only thing that comes to mind these days when one thinks about Syria.

Back in April 2007, however, things were quite different. Foreigners were welcome in the country and hot air balloon teams were invited from all over the world to decorate the Syrian skies as part of the mayor of Homs’ birthday celebrations.

German balloon operator and photographer Michael Spar shared with us the photos from his once-in-a-lifetime trip to Syria, when instead of fighter jets and aerial strikes there were hot air balloons and aerial photos.

Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning
Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning

Before it became an opposition stronghold, Homs was the third largest city in Syria and a key transportation and industrial center. As one might imagine, in such a major city in a non-democratic regime, grandeur is to be expected when a leader celebrates and the mayor’s birthday is no exception.

Hot air balloons were the main attraction of the celebrations with teams being brought in from all over the world. It was an all-expenses-paid trip for the teams, with the Syrians taking care of the flights, accommodation, transporting the balloons etc.

Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning
Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning

While some might not understand the hoo-ha about the balloons, Michael tells us it was the first time foreign aircrafts were issued a permit for recreational flights in Syrian air space.

The ten day adventure included flights over Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the cradle of civilization, and the country’s capital city – Damascus.

Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning
Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning

During this time Michael captured some 5,000 photos, with the presidential palace, cityscapes, old military installations where tanks and other weaponry were still visible and underground bunkers and rocket silos being a few of the subjects.

The presidential palace. Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning
The presidential palace. Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning
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Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning

Sadly many of the areas shown in Michael’s photos look nothing alike today after ISIS has intentionally destroyed historic sites around the country and other areas were ruined by all sides as part of the ongoing fighting.

Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning
Copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning

You can see more of Michael’s photographic work on Facebook (here also) and his website, or visit Liberty Movie Ballooning if you find yourself in Germany wanting to go up in the air.

All photos are copyright Liberty Movie Ballooning and may not be used without permission.

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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2 responses to “Before ISIS: Hot Air Balloons Over Syria”

  1. Michael Spar Avatar
    Michael Spar

    Liron, den Artikel hast du wirklich toll verfasst. Bin sehr begeistert (Y) Vielen Dank !!!

  2. Pete Woods Avatar
    Pete Woods

    Although the content is remarkable in so much as it was visually interesting I would however question foreign involvement with this “non-democratic regime” and it’s celebrations (even before the current events unfolding within the region) no matter how innocuous the actual event sounds?

    Note: I wouldn’t have said anything except for the political overtones within the post itself. The article seems to have a journalistic ‘bent’ to one particular side of the confrontation where hopefully I am wrong but it seems to step outside the subject of photography into the political arena?