Wednesday, December 14, 2016

As Palmyra falls, Paris heritage show looks to the future

Inaugurating an exhibit on endangered Middle Eastern heritage sites Tuesday, French President François Hollande called the show “a militant act”. But the curators are looking ahead to peace and reconstruction.

Palmyra fell to the Islamic State (IS) group last year. Then this spring, the ancient city was retaken by Russian-backed Syrian forces. That lasted until this weekend, when the IS group recaptured the area, which houses a UNESCO world heritage site dating to the Roman Empire. Amid heavy fighting, Russian military officials on Saturday announced that they had forced out IS jihadists from Palmyra. But that turned out to be premature. By Sunday, the city was back under IS control.

Palmyra, an oasis refuge on the ancient caravan trails crisscrossing the Fertile Crescent, has long been sought by conquerors, invaders and empire-builders.

These days, the city is being seized, liberated and seized again at such a dizzying pace, it’s hard to know what’s going on in the eastern Syrian desert city.

But now, in a museum thousands of miles away from the Syrian desert and a world apart from the ravages of war, the stones of this ancient city are telling a different story...

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