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Mahmoud crafts a scale model of Palmyra with kebab skewers and clay.

UNHCR/Christopher Herwig

Syria’s Landmarks Restored in Miniature

As conflict lays waste to Syria’s rich cultural heritage, exiled artists in Za’atari refugee camp recreate major landmarks as a gesture of defiance.

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  • Photos by
    Christopher Herwig
  • Text by
    Charlie Dunmore
5 January 2016 5 January 2016
Syria Jordan

The world has looked on in disbelief at the demolition of iconic landmarks in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria – a shocking illustration of the chaos inflicted on the country and its people by years of war.

For millions of Syrians in exile who have already lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones, the destruction of their country’s cultural heritage is a further cruel twist in a conflict that threatens to rob them of their past as well as their futures.

Outraged but powerless to prevent the havoc being done in their homeland, a group of Syrian artists living in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp have used their skills and whatever materials they can find to build models of the landmarks that embody Syria’s long and rich history.

While many of the sites have been damaged or destroyed in the fighting, the group hopes that its painstaking recreations will bring attention to the threat facing Syria’s cultural monuments and help fellow refugees to remember the homeland they were forced to leave behind.