Priceless monuments lost in war zones of Syria and Iraq

There are historic monuments that you will never get to visit. They are the silent victims of war zones, they stood proud for millennia only to be destroyed by bombs and crossfire.

These places take their legacy with them in the rubble of war.

Ancient city of Bosra, Syria

Bosra, once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia, was an important stopover on the ancient caravan route to Mecca. A magnificent 2nd-century Roman theater, early Christian ruins and several mosques are found within its great walls. Archaeologists have revealed the site is now severely damaged from mortar shelling from the current armed conflict.

Bosra amphitheater - Syria

The Great Mosque of Aleppo, Syria

The mosque, built between the 8th and 13th centuries, is reputedly home to the remains of John the Baptist's father. It is located in Aleppo's walled Old City, a Unesco World Heritage site. Heavy fighting during the Syrian civil war has ruined the holy site and toppled its minaret.

Great Mosque of Aleppo - Syria

Norias of Hama, Syria

Hama’s main attraction is the norias, water wheels up to 20m in diameter, that have graced the town for millennia. Because both the water wheels and the blocks on which they are mounted are wooden, the friction when they turn produces a mournful groaning.

There have been norias in Hama since at least the 4th century AD, but the wheels seen today were designed by the 13th-century Ayyubids, who built around 30 of them. Of these, 17 norias survive, although all have been reconditioned and/or rebuilt.

Heritage experts documented several wheels being burned by fighters in 2014.

Norias of Hama

Citadel of Aleppo, Syria

Located at the crossroads of several trade routes since the 2nd millennium B.C., Aleppo was ruled successively by the Hittites, Assyrians, Akkadians, Greeks, Romans, Umayyads, Ayyubids, Mameluks and Ottomans, all of whom left their stamp on the city. The Citadel, the 12th-century Great Mosque and various 16th and 17th-centuries madrasas, residences, khans and public baths, all form part of the city's cohesive, unique urban fabric.

The monumental Citadel of Aleppo, rising above the suqs, mosques and madrasas of the old walled city, is a testament to Arab military might from the 12th to the 14th centuries. With evidence of past occupation by civilizations dating back to the 10th century B.C., the citadel contains the remains of mosques, palace and bath buildings.

The citadel has been used as an army base in recent fighting and several of its historic buildings have been destroyed.

Aleppo Citadel Syria

Aleppo Souk, Syria

Al-Madina Souq is Aleppo's covered market, the largest of its kind in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site that traces its history back to the 14th century. Large parts of it have been reduced to ashes as government forces and rebels fight for control of the city.

Fruit market - Syria

Nimrud, Iraq

It was in the Middle Assyrian period that the town known then as Kalhu (Calah in the Old Testament) was first recorded as an administrative centre. It was chosen as a new Assyrian capital by Ashurnasirpal II and remained the capital of Assyria for more than 150 years. During this time new palaces and administrative buildings were erected. Following the 2003 invasion the site has been devastated by looting, with many of the stolen pieces finding homes in museums abroad.

Old assyrian relief

Crac des Chevaliers, Syria

Impervious to the onslaught of time, Crac des Chevaliers (in Arabic Qala’at al-Hosn) is one of Syria’s must-see sights. It was added to Unesco’s World Heritage list in 2006.

Together with Qal’at Salah, El-Din represents the most significant example illustrating the exchange of influences and documenting the evolution of fortified architecture in the Near East during the time of the Crusades (11th - 13th centuries). The Crac des Chevaliers was built by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem from 1142 to 1271. With further construction by the Mamluks in the late 13th century, it ranks among the best-preserved examples of the Crusader castles.

The walls were severely damaged by regime airstrikes and artillery in 2013, and rebels took positions within it.

Crac des Chevaliers

Palmyra, Syria

This ancient Aramaic city was first mentioned in the archives of Mari in the 2nd millennium BC, Palmyra was an established caravan oasis when it came under Roman control in the mid-first century AD as part of the Roman province of Syria. It grew steadily in importance as a city on the trade route linking Persia, India and China with the Roman Empire, marking the crossroads of several civilizations in the ancient world. A grand, colonnaded street of 1100 meters length forms the monumental axis of the city, which together with secondary colonnaded cross streets links the major public monuments.

It is feared that Palmyra has now been devastated by looting.

Palmyra. Syria

Built by man and destroyed by man seems to be the sad tagline that follows the stories of these majestic historical sites. Alas, we will never see them in their glory again.

  • Nikitu
  • Bucharest, Romania
Content Manager, Editors Coordinator and Social Media Wizard at Dreamstime.

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March 10, 2015

Those pictures and the article show how cruel the war is. Several nations throughout the history had suffered similar loses of magnificent cultural heritage that could be lost during war.
The capital city of Poland, Warsaw was deliberately mined by Nazi German occupation in 1944 to wipe out the cultural heritage of over one thousand year old nation. The historic city of Warsaw was 85% destroyed, but yet with the determination and support of the whole Polish nation the reconstruction restored all the buildings spanning from 13th to the 20th century. Every building in the Old Town, a blend of different styles from Gothic to Baroque can now be enjoyed by visitors and stand as an example of the resilience to cruel war.


February 09, 2015

This is so sad. Ashes to ashes dust to dust. Our lifes so short against civilization age.


November 22, 2014

The historical center of Nuremberg, South-Germany was heavily destroyed during World War II. It was so flattened that nobody could imagine from the ruins how the center looked before.

One professional photographer made hundreds of photos from the center in the years before the bombing. These photos were used to reconstruct major parts of the historical center. It took 20 years to rebuild it. It became a major tourist attraction again.

When I walk through the center I like to look at the walls and check which bricks are original (the dark one from the fire) and which are new (the light ones).

Of course, photos cannot prevent destruction, but they can - at least - help to rebuild it.


November 21, 2014

Yes. Very very sad ...
In war zones, there is no concern for the preservation of historical monuments, unfortunately.


November 20, 2014

fantastic pictures!!!!


November 20, 2014

Very sad to see such destruction. The water wheels are fascinating, I wasn't aware of those.