Damascus is a city of people waiting for the unknown.

Most men have sent their children and wives to safer countries. The millions who remain continue to work and attend school. The food stands are full. Cell phone and money machine lines are long. Most things appear normal.

But the shrinking bubble of “normal” Damascus which remains under the control of President Bashar al Assad is haunted by the steady sound of shelling, hundreds a day, outgoing to the suburbs of this ancient city and beyond.

Rebel car bombings are becoming common. Civilians who were largely sheltered by the civil war now find it at their doorstep. Local men armed by the government, called shabiha, stand guard at homemade checkpoints in their neighborhoods. And the displaced Syrians who fled areas of fighting for the safety of Damascus are worried once again.

Most civilians in Damascus, paranoid about discussing politics out loud, don’t announce loyalty to either side…a dangerous stance in a place where both sides are intolerant of doubt.
noor_slideshow_regime01
Men smoke hookah, drink coffee and play backgammon at a cafe in Damascus.
Damascus
Damascus
noor_slideshow_regime05
noor_slideshow_regime06
noor_slideshow_regime07
noor_slideshow_regime08
noor_slideshow_regime09
noor_slideshow_regime10
Afghan MSF midwives.
noor_slideshow_regime12
noor_slideshow_regime13
Damascus
noor_slideshow_regime15
noor_slideshow_regime16
(Andrea Bruce/ for The New York Times)
noor_slideshow_regime18
noor_slideshow_regime19
A "Mother" takes care of children orphaned by the war in Syria.
Afghan MSF midwives.
Damascus
noor_slideshow_regime23
Damascus, SyriaAndrea Bruce/ For the NYTimes
noor_slideshow_regime25
noor_slideshow_regime26
noor_slideshow_regime27
noor_slideshow_regime28
noor_slideshow_regime29
Damascus
noor_slideshow_regime31
noor_slideshow_regime32
noor_slideshow_regime33
noor_slideshow_regime34
Displaced Syrians find refuge in an empty hotel in the old city of Damascus.