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HOMS Troy Apke Redskin Jersey , Syria, July 18 (Xinhua) -- A 30-minute drive is enough for anyone to move from hell to heaven in Syria's central city of Homs, otherwise known as the heart of Syria.

Usually, when Syria's name is mentioned, all people could think about are devastation, death, blood, and hunger. And while this somehow is true, it's not the whole story.

The untold story in Syria is that there are areas that are still intact, and more beautiful than anyone could have imagined.

But of course, such claim could be hard to believe when the pictures of Syria on TVs are only showing the worst part, leaving the other side of the picture undeveloped.

The old part of Homs city seems like a part of hell brought onto earth to remind people of death and the end of time, with an entire bleak landscape of destruction greeting those approaching the city, which looks more horrifying than the ghost cities in the movies.

Since capturing it from the rebels, including al-Qaida-linked ones, in 2014, the government has encouraged the reconstruction of the destroyed city, but no effort is enough for the size of catastrophe, as large parts of old Homs need to be destroyed and rebuilt from scratch.

Pancaked buildings, with roofs bent down kissing the ground, and metal of the foundations sprouting out of the worn out pillars, as well as demolished facades are seen everywhere, as a reminder of how tough the war could be.

Standing there couldn't be more frustrating and suffocating, but turning on the engine and driving five minutes lead to the sound part of Homs city, where shops and streets are bustling with people.

Driving a little bit further, less than 30 minutes, to the west and the visitor will be greeted by green mountains, high trees, forests, and evergreens.

Colorful roses and flowers please the eyes while the wet, cool breeze breath life into the person's heart. Happy people driving around playing loud music in narrow streets punctuated with small and big restaurants could be seen everywhere as if the visitor has been saved from hell and granted heaven.

The visitors of both sides realize that not everything is as it seems, and that life still exists in Syria, even though the woes are much more than the wows in large parts of the country. But still, the small wows give hope that someday this country will be back on track toward happiness again.

The government has recently started encouraging domestic tourism to the attraction sites that have largely escaped the war, and the western countryside of Homs, which constitutes of tens of villages and towns on mountains and in the valley, is one of them.

This week, the Homs governorate hosted a festival called the Castle and Valley, which includes several events held in the Wadi al-Nasara valley in western Homs, including an exhibition to showcase Syria-made products, concerts, poetry sessions, as well as events for disabled children.

At the 'Made in Syria' events, several types of products were displayed, ranging from housewares to Syria-made cars, which are basically Chinese brands assembled in Syria.

Several ministers have attended the event.

Internal Trade and Consumer Protection Minister Abdullah al-Gharbi told Xinhua during the event that the message of the festival is that "we are people who will not die... after seven years of destructive war on Syria, we are in perfect conditions, holding exhibitions of products made in Syria and those products are fully made in Syria even the cars are made in Syria in 2017 using high techs. We want to say to the whole world that the Syrian people will win and together we will rebuild Syria."

For his part, Talal Barzi, the governor of Homs, told Xinhua that "the Castle and Valley festival is an old festival that used to take place in Homs every year, but has stopped during the first four years of war and resumed in 2015. It's a tourist and promotional event, including social, cultural and sports activities."

Barzi said the tourist events held in Wadi al-Nasara aims to give a message that social and cultural events are back in Syria after the victories of the Syrian army, adding that it reflects the determination of the Syrian people to rebuild the country.

"Syria is recovering and this image will encourage the Syrians in the diaspora to return and contribute in the reconstruction process of their country," he said.

The festival this year is the third in the Syrian crisis, and the first since the last rebel batch left their last stronghold in the Homs city last May, making the entire city of Homs under the government control.

The army is now focusing on the eastern and northern countryside of that key city to dislodge the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front from the northern countryside and the Islamic State from its eastern rim.

Homs is one of Syria's most important industrial centers, boasting the country's largest oil refinery and key oil and gas fields in its eastern countryside.

The city is also a hub connecting major Syrian cities together, and gaining full control over the city will be an important step for the government to have full control over Syria's other major five cities of Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Aleppo, and Hama.

Rebels called Homs the "Capital of Revolution," as it was one of the first cities to join the anti-government movement in Syria in mid-March 2011, but areas in the western countryside, including Wadi al-Nasara, stayed away from the violence as the population there is largely Christians.

Still, the people of the valley have suffered from mortar shells fired by the rebels in the nearby al-Hosn village, where the historic Krak des Chevaliers castle is located.

The rebels in control of town used the castle as a high ground to control the al-Hosn village, which holds the Arabic name of the castle, and fire mortar shells on nearby villages before the army too

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