How a Beloved World Heritage Site Became a Battlefield. And What’s Next.; Jess McHugh; Travel + Leisure


Syria – Site of Palmyra

Meet the historians, archeologists and Syrian civilians risking their lives for a piece of world heritage.

Equipped with bulletproof vest and helmet, Dr. Mechtild Rössler set off in an armored vehicle last April toward Palmyra, Syria. Bustling along the dusty road, she knew that the area had not been entirely de-mined.

Russian teams had removed 3,000 land mines from the treasured archeological site, but handmade devices left by the retreating Islamic State group still remained. Access was limited, given the remote location of Palmyra as well as the remaining IEDs, and all members of her UNESCO team proceeded with lingering awareness of the surrounding danger.

“It was one of the most difficult missions I did in my 25 years at the UNESCO world heritage center,” Rössler, president of the cultural heritage division of the international organization, told Travel + Leisure.

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