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Syria Tourism Ministry: Come For Sunny Beaches, Don't Mind The Civil War

The aerial footage shows bright beach umbrella, palm trees, swimming families, jet skis. The sun is shining. The music is upbeat.

The message? "Syria: Always Beautiful."

Over the last few weeks, the Syrian government's Ministry of Tourism has released more than a dozen videos on Youtube, each promoting the charms of Syria as a travel destination.

One video spotlights ancient ruins — with no acknowledgment that many cities in Syria are new ruins, destroyed by the brutal civil war raging there.

That war has stretched on for five years, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Before the war began Syria was a relatively popular tourist destination. The Atlantic reports that the country saw 8.5 million visitors in 2010. Bloomberg says that before the war began, foreign tourism made up 14 percent of Syria's GDP.

A year before the war started, NPR wrote of one ancient Syrian city that was "making a name for itself as a tourist destination for food lovers."

The city was Aleppo — now infamous as a site of abject human suffering and horrific destruction, as some 2 million civilians are trapped in a battleground.

Needless to say, the regime isn't promoting Aleppo in their promotional videos. The "Always Beautiful" video spotlights the coastal town of Tartus, Foreign Policy reports.

As NPR's Steve Inskeep has reported, the port city is relatively peaceful, compared to the rest of Syria. It's home to many supporters of President Bashar Assad, and Russia maintains a naval base there.

But Tartus, too, has been touched by violence. Attacks there and in the seaside city of Jableh killed more than 150 people in May.

On Monday, as we reported earlier, a string of attacks in Syria killed dozens of people. The bombings targeted regions under regime control or occupied by Kurdish forces, which are areas normally understood to be relatively secure.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.