The Jewish synagoge of Qamishlo in Syria

On one of my recent trips to the Kurdish self-administered parts of Syria – better known as ‘Rojava’ – my local fixer told me something very interesting. According to him, there was a Jewish synagogue, a graveyard, and perhaps even a small community of Jews left in Qamishlo. After some research, we were quite certain that the Jewish community of this city was nothing but a rumour anymore. People in the city have heard of such a community, but they all said, that this was past by now. An article published on Jerusalem Post in 2006 was able to track …

Hezbollah’s Ashura in Beirut

On October 12th, tens of thousands of people gathered for Ashura in Beirut, the highest holiday in Shia Islam. As usual, the ceremonies take place in the Shia suburbs or Beirut, where the Shia party Hezbollah, has its headquarters and strongholds. Ashura is a memorial day to remember the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, dying alongside his six month old infant son Abdallah and 72 of his followers in the battle of Kerbala on October 10th in 680. Until today, Shia muslims all over the world gather to remember and mourn this day when Sunni and Shia Islam had their final …

The Jewish cemetery of Cairo, Egypt

One of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world is located in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Before Israel was founded, Egypt had a flourishing Jewish community. Now the community is believed to consist of no more than 30 to 40 people, all of them living in Cairo and Alexandria. Each of these cities still has a working synagogue. Both of them are not publicly accessible, but opened on high Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur.     Another trace of the former thriving Jewish life in Egypt is the Jewish cemetery in Cairo. It is located roughly in the south …

The cemetery “Behesht-e Zahra” in Tehran, Iran

The central cemetery of Iran’s capital Tehran, is not only the biggest cemetery of the country, but also one of the biggest cemetery of the world. It is the final resting place to approximately 1.3 mio. people, and lies in the very south of the city. The following photo gallery is supposed to give you a general idea of the place, and the special buildings it hosts. There are isolated sections for the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war, sections for Iranians martyred during the Hajj to Mekka,  defenders of Islam, Iraqi-Kurdish victims of the 1988 gas attacks on Halabja, and …

Lalish – Yazidis’ home

I recently visited Lalish, the center of the Yazidi religion that came to fame after the Islamic state persecuted the approximately 650.000 members of this ancient religion in Iraq. Lalish can be easily visited from Duhok with a taxi, it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to get there. The valley is especially beautiful and green in spring. Fortunately, non-Yazidis are allowed to enter the perimeters of the place and can even enter the temple, where Sheikh Adi is buried. Only Yazidis can enter the aisles beneath the temple where the two holy springs can be reached, though. The two …

The Jewish cemetery of Beirut, Lebanon

Welcome to the Jewish cemetery in Beirut, Lebanon.  Many visitors of Beirut would never think that this city actually has a very old Jewish cemetery, which is located right on Sodeco square near the district of Ashrafiyeh. The cemetery is closed off to the public since many years, but it is possible to see some of the tombstones from Damascus road from the outside. Even the head of the Jewish committee in Lebanon, Isaac Arazi (who lives in France permanently) is not allowing any visitors inside, so I was really lucky to get these shots.   The cemetery is generally …

Baalbek, Lebanon

The city of Baalbek (Arabic: “بعلبك“) in Lebanon is situated right in the heart of the Bekaa valley. Baalbek is a predominantly Shia city with roughly 80.000 inhabitants. Most foreign visitors visit Baalbek for its massive Roman ruins. The city is a stronghold of Hezbollah and features one of the country’s most beautiful mosques, called Sayyeda Khawla. Khawla (السيدة خولة بنت الحسي) was a daughter of Imam Hussein and is allegedly buried in this mosque. The mosque is an example of Iranian Islamic architecture, because it was built with Iranian money. The mosque is open for interested non-Muslims as well …