In the pre-revolution days, Syrians were ever ready to list ten of their favourite picnic spots, ten of their much-loved restaurants, or even ten of the sects participating in the imaginary happy mosaic. Today, lists of traumatisation leap to the mind: the ten largest refugee camps, or ten major massacres, or perhaps ten of the numerous new militias.

Syrian-made films are not something new that has just arrived with the uprising. Documentary filmmaking, with its focus on giving an honest portrayal of a situation, has played an important and hotly contested role in Syria for many years.

Writing about Syria has become impossible without seeing things in the light of the revolution and the conflicts developing since March 2011. It’s difficult to remember how things were just two years ago, right before the start of the uprising. For people who spent a long time there, and even for Syrians themselves, that reality has been absorbed by one more poignant. That time seems to matter little now that every Syrian has lost friends or family.

There is a woman who lives alone in Hama, Syria. She has been in mourning for thirty-two years, tormented by memories of her survival. One night in February 1982, when she was a young woman in her twenties, military forces raided the basement where she and the women in her family had been hiding, huddled with their neighbours. They had thought they were safe, sheltered from the mass murders and arrests that had become everyday occurrences in the historically quiet and conservative city.

Wars are crowded with male faces, weapons and gruesome images. We know there are other things happening but we are struck anew when we are there on the ground to see for ourselves. In late January 2014, I had the chance to go inside Syria when a group of friends decided to visit liberated areas and deliver baby milk, winter clothes and some aid for local initiatives.

The history of trade in silk, damasks, brocades and other textiles, as well as the legacy of traditional garb, like the male headgear, the keffiyeh, or the female hijab, is well documented since at least the Abbasid period. In contrast, we know little about the history of Syrian lingerie manufacturing.