In a Syrian Refugee’s Bags, Memories of Home

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In September, when I set out on what will be a two-year project to tell the stories of disappearing cultural heritage in the Middle East, I found myself struggling to grasp the magnitude of upheaval because of war: countless lives lost and upended, archaeological sites destroyed, soap factories bombed, textile weavers and artisans in exile, religious communities and ancient languages vanishing. I hoped that by speaking to some of the millions of displaced people, I might begin to understand what had been lost.

As I’ve begun meeting migrants and refugees from Iraq and Syria, in churches and border towns, subway stations and restaurants, in the Middle East and European villages, the stories they tell reveal not only what they have lost, but also the beautiful things they have saved, or remade.

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