So many people have fled to Syria’s crowded northwest that families have settled in important archaeological sites. “We, too, have become ruins.”
AL-KFEIR, Syria — As the sun set, children in dirty clothes and battered shoes herded sheep past the towering stone walls of a Byzantine settlement abandoned more than 1,000 years ago, leading them into an ancient cave nearby where the animals would spend the night.
Laundry hung near the semi-cylindrical wall of a ruined, centuries-old church. Vegetables grew between the remnants of two rectangular doorways ornamented with carved leaf patterns. Scattered about were giant cut stones from what had once been an extensive town.
It was here, at the vast archaeological site of al-Kfeir, Syria, where Abu Ramadan and his family sought shelter more than a year ago after fleeing a Syrian government assault.
They’ve been here ever since.
Abu Ramadan, 38, said he cared little for the site’s history as a trading and agricultural center, but appreciated the sturdy walls that blunted the wind and the abundance of cut stones that a family who had lost everything could salvage to piece together a new life.
World Heritage sites in Syria, including, in 2011, the ruins in the northwest, called the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria.
Crac de Chevaliers, one of the world’s best preserved Crusader castles, was littered with rubble when the government seized it from rebels in 2014.