The city of Homs was built on a special river named Al-Assi that means "the disobedient" for the river flows from south to north against gravity. Unlike this river people of Homs have submitted to the injustice in their city. More importantly they have joined forces with those who are abusing it. One of the main natural features of Homs is the flat land that the city has, these flat lands with rich volcanic elements in it made Homs an agricultural city before anything, so trade is not one of its strengths. The capital Damascus is the one for the white jasmine, so it's called the Damascene jasmine, but Homs has it at every corner and it seems to flourish more in its quite streets making morning walks have a remarkable freshness.
Also Homs is known for being in front of an opening between mountains on its west side, so air currents coming from sea always reach it making its summer more bearable than other Syrian cities. This wind current left its marks on the trees making it bent to the east, so you'll know that you have entered Homs from the bent trees beside the road. However, first signs of abuse towards this city has appeared when the petrol refinement was built right next to its buildings on the west side - the wind blow side - in the sixties, making pollution consistent with every wind blow. And if that wasn't enough a composting factory and a sugar factory also were built at the same area.
So instead of being known for its nice weather it has become famous for pollution and dusty streets. Homs has a very conservative society, full of contradictions and social discriminations, it's also a dull city that used to sleep when the night is young and wakes up near noon. It has no cultural or entertainment activities, no decent public park, so many people had to go to the green ribbons next to roads to have a picnic, while people with money fled away to near cities to have fun, leaving the city almost empty at weekends! All this haven't formed a reason for those who were in charge to move or to do any gesture to this neglected city, although it’s the third biggest city in Syria and provide agricultural fortune and industry.
This city has all the potential to be a city with a defined character, to be a destination. For example: it's very popular for is its sweets, although all cities of Syria have the same kind of sweets and the same general recipes, Homs is the number one! it even has a special kind of sweet which only can be made and eaten at down! Urbanely this could mean an opportunity to reinforce this industry "creatively", creating a sweet market and coffee shops dedicated for this kind of experiment, forming a character for the city, as one example of many. Also Al-Assi river could have created a special character for Homs, unfortunately it has been transformed to a small stream of dirt and rubbish full of unpleasant insects and smells, leaving the huge opportunities of creating environmental, social, and cultural projects and events out of question.
Instead, Homs had the unfortunate of having a mayor in year 2006 who abused its rich as well as its poor, he even came up with a project called "Homs dream" which people renamed it as "Homs nightmare", because this project was intended to take on their shops and lands at the heart of old city and reconstruct it in the least architectural vision; it was all about sucking profit out of the owners and residence of this city to the last drop. People upraised against this final straw, but at that time none of this conflict and crisis we are witnessing had begun yet; so all was suppressed and ignored and everyone went back to their usual lives.
Of course as said, the abuse wasn't just from one part against the other, it was two jaws ripping off the last shreds of this sad city. Corruption, injustice, neglecting, lack of vision, even morals, and social discrimination on so many levels were everywhere to the degree that walking in the street had become something wrenching for me personally, talking about simple rights of having clean healthy aware built environment were laughable from almost everybody. Now the most unwanted had happened, everything exploded. It is like a big bag of dirt reached its top and dirt now is all over the place. So some see it, although very hurtful, as a second chance, or as a wise man said to me: "a washing machine with us in it" and a Homsi friend with the famous Homsi humor replied to this: "Enough already; we have become so dizzy in this rotating washing machine!"