Syria: Where war hides history


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DURA-EUROPOS, SYRIA – Syria is Damascus to the growing number of Western tourists here. A short trip to the Greek desert city of Palmyra, about halfway to the Euphrates from the capital, is often as far east as visitors go.

Down the highway, however, where the Euphrates greens a strip of the rocky landscape, is a corner of the country less known for historical sights than for its proximity to war-torn Iraq. It is from here that militants have entered Iraq since the American invasion in 2003. The conflict has left Dura-Europos largely unseen by tourists.

But on a cliff overlooking the Euphrates less than 30 miles from Iraq, where Roman soldiers once watched for invading Persians, it’s possible to imagine life in the fortified desert city of Dura-Europos 2,000 years ago. Founded in 300 BC by Seleucus, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, it was a cosmopolitan outpost; first Hellenistic, then Roman – home to Greeks, Syrians, Christians, and Jews.

Read the rest of my most recent story for the Christian Science Monitor.

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