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When hot air balloons, not bombs, sailed overhead.
Pictures from war document the human cost of conflict and communicate that cost to people far away. But pictures of a battle-scarred place before the war began can sometimes be even more affecting. We forget how placid and whole, how everyday, a country seemed once upon a time.
In Syria, aside from the more than 100,000 lives that have been lost since March 2011, there has been staggering damage to the country's infrastructure, economy and cultural heritage. Cities like Aleppo, a major trading center on the Silk Road, have had centuries-old markets gutted in just a few hours.
Here's a glimpse at Syria before the fall, when hot-air balloons instead of bombs sailed overhead:
Balloons fly over the city of Damascus on May 7, 2007. (Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)
Children play in the courtyard of the historic Omayad Mosque in the heart of Damascus' Old City on March 29, 2001. (Louai Beshara/Getty Images)
Shoppers move through the Ottoman-era shopping souk on Aug. 31, 2006 in Damascus. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
A Syrian model wears a creation of Suha Chwaihna at a haute couture fashion show in Damascus on July 29, 2008. (Louai Beshara/Getty Images)
One of Damascus' main squares with the Syrian Central Bank on the right, April 28, 2004. (Joseph Barrak/Getty Images)
Syrian men smoke 'nargileh' or waterpipes at the Rawdah Cafe in central Damascus, April 27, 2010. (Louai Beshara/Getty Images)
Syrian restaurant between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915. Bain News Service. (Courtesy of flickr)
Damascus by night. (Wikicommons)
The historic city of Aleppo with its landmark citadel, March 17, 2006. (Ramzi Haidar/Getty Images)
The bridge leading to Aleppo citadel, the most prominent historic architectural site in Aleppo, the Arab world's Islamic cultural capital, March 18, 2006. (Ramzi Haidar/Getty Images)
A Syrian whirling dervish dancer from the Aleppo Heritage Ensemble performs in Damascus, Sept. 7, 2008. (Louai Beshara/Getty Images)
This early-20th century photograph, taken in Damascus by William H. Rau, depicts a crowded workshop where men, women and children are making what Rau described as “inlaid pearlwork” furniture. The workshops of Damascus were famed for this intricate craft, which features geometrical designs of alternating pieces of mother of pearl and polished wood. Dec. 14, 1903. (Wikicommons)
Syrian men weave traditional rugs in the Bazaar of the historic Syrian city of Aleppo, March 18, 2006. (Ramzi Haidar/Getty Images)
View of the Citadel of Salah ad-Din on Aug. 28, 2008 near Latakia, northern Syria. (Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images)
A sense of what's left behind. Thousands of Syrians stream across a bridge over the Tigris River and into Iraq's Kurdistan region on Aug. 15. (Galiya Gubaeva/Courtesy of UNHCR)