NEW DELHI: Syria, today is a war zone, where four years of civil war -- made worse by the US-led coalition’s support to anti-government militias -- has contributed to the worst refugee crisis in recent years, with an estimated four million Syrians fleeing a conflict that demonstrates world power politics at its worst. Since 2014, the conflict in Syria has taken on a new character with the rise of the Islamic State, as the militant group’s capital is in the Syrian province of Raqqa.

As the war on terror focuses on Syria, things are only getting worse. In recent months, the Islamic State has captured new territory, even expanding outside of its stronghold in Syria and Iraq -- to Libya, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc and including attacks in the West, such as the deadly attacks in Paris last month.

However, Syria was not always the conflict torn state that people were desperately trying -- risking everything that they had -- to get away from, although the country has had a politically unstable past. As part of our “Once Upon A Time” series, The Citizen brings to you images from Syria in the 1940s, 1950s, 60s and 70s, that paint a very different picture to the bloody and violent country that Syria is today. The two other articles in this series as Iraq in the 1950s, and Afghanistan in the 1960s.

Here’s a look at Syria, once upon a time…

Women were a part of everyday life:

This image, from 1974, shows Damascus schoolgirls during a standard drill. The image, published by National Geographic, stated: “The teen-agers must learn to drill, discipline, nursing and some weapons handling.”

An image from the spring of 1960 showing demonstrators commemorating Nakba Day on the streets of Damascus. Women, dressed in modern clothes, lead the group. Credit AFP:

This image shows women students outside the faculty of law, Damascus university, 1950. Image credit: MiddleEastRevised:

This photo, from 1965, shows a range of fashions and religious styles -- fez, burkha, headscarf and business suit -- on a single Damascus park bench. Image credit: National Geographic:

This what Marjeh Square in Damascus used to look like in the 60s:

A photo of Deir-Ezzor, Syria, 1960s:

Syria was so beautiful, it was a tourist hotspot:

In this photo, Saudi tourists enjoy a meal, 1996. Image credit: National Geographic. In 2010, before the civil war broke out, 8.5 million tourists visited Syria.

Palmyra, which has fallen to the Islamic State, was till recently a hotbed of tourism:

Heard of Aleppo? This is what it looks like today:

Here are images from Aleppo in the 60s.

Al Sabil park Aleppo, Syria

Syria today is known for religious extremism. Here’s a photo of a Jewish wedding in Syria from the 1960s (courtesy Wikipedia):

Children had a normal childhood (in School. Image courtesy

Learning continued (A technical training school lab. Image courtesy Embassy of Syria):

This is what Damascus looked like in the 1940s:

Just to put things in context, this is what Google images throws up for Syria today: