You could be standing in a crowded Mumbai train, yet wandering around 15-foot columns of the 2000-year-old Temple of Bel, Playmra, in troubled Syria. As part of a BBC Radio podcast called Museum of Lost Objects, Syrian art historian Nasser Rabbat talks about his experiences of living in the temple’s compound — and has you imagine both Greeks and Arabs praying at the three altars.
He describes it as a cosmopolitan mishmash of divinities and artistic style, which now stands destroyed, attacked by the militants of Islamic State last August.
The podcast’s 10 episodes of Season 1 visit heritage sites and antiquities across Syria and Iraq, which have been looted or destroyed by insurgents. These include Der Zor, Armenian Martyr’s Memorial, the Genie of Nimrud, Winged-Bull of Nineveh and The Lion of Al-Lat. The series, which started in February, is presented by author and historian Kanishk Tharoor. The idea for the podcast came from BBC producer Maryam Maruf.
“We were appalled by the human and cultural devastation in these regions, and wanted to formulate some kind of response. The Museum of Lost Objects tells the tale of lost cultural treasures, through deeply personal narratives,” says Tharoor. Season 2 is in the works, he adds.
Narratives include those of Zenobia Al Asaad, daughter of Khalid Al asaad, head of antiquity at Palmyra. She recalls, as a little girl, walking around the structure while her father told her fascinating stories about it.
When the militants of Islamic State attacked the city, Khalid refused to flee along with his family. I was born here and will die here, he had said. Last August, he was executed in public, called an apostate, a director of idolatry, guilty of attending infidel academic conferences. The family never got his remains.
Listen to the Podcast:
Museum of Lost Objects