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Old Damascus bazaar

The small town of Ma'arat to the south of Aleppo in Syria was the scene of one of the most gruesome episodes during the First Crusade. The Crusaders had large bands of plunderers in their trail. They ran out of food and they besieged Ma'arat in the year 1099. The town surrendered and the starving Christian warriors seized the Muslims of Ma'arat. They were slaughtered, their dead bodies were cut to pieces and fried on big fires to still the Crusaders' hunger. My Syrian-Orthodox companion Yoseph can hardly believe it when I tell him the true story. How could this happen? The Crusaders were above all the defenders of Christianity, the liberators of the Holy Places from the yoke of Islam. So he argues. I tell him that in Islamic eyes the Crusades were just the unholy wars of Christian non-believers. Of course, he says, these damned Muslims have always hated us like hell.