Throughout Syria’s four-year war, many of the country’s ancient monuments and artifacts have been demolished by ISIS and Syrian bombs targeted at Islamic militants. In August, ISIS destroyed Palmyra, one of the most important cultural centers in the world.
Yet a group of Syrian refugee artists in Jordan, with the support of the United Nations and Internal Relief and Development, have been salvaging some memories of their country’s destroyed artifacts. Since November 2014, these artists have been constructing miniature models of Syria’s ancient architecture through a project called Syria History and Civilization, according to a reporty by Buzzfeed News.
“The artifacts that have been destroyed are a loss to the whole world and not only to Syria,” project coordinator Ahmad al-Hariri told Buzzfeed News. “The goal is to define the Syrian people, preserve our heritage, and prove Syrian identity, and the most important message is to stop the war.” He says that the project is important because some refugee children have never seen their homeland. The monuments can take anywhere from 15 days to three months to complete, depending on the resources available at the time.
Ismail Hariri, a refugee artist, said the project has helped him rediscover his passion for art, according to a UNHCR blog post. Hariri was an interior designer before being relocated to Za’atari Camp in 2013 with his wife and seven children. His favorite project was a model of the Nabatean Gate he sculpted out of the gate’s original stone.
The projects are completed with a wide range of materials including local stone, polystyrene, discarded wood, volcanic stone, and even kebab skewers. So far, the artists have built models of the Deir ez-Zor suspension bridge, which spanned the Euphrates River, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Nabatean gate and arch at Bosra, and a statue of famed military and political leader Ayyubid Sultan Saladin, among others.