The finest of the ruins visited was Palmyra in the middle of the Syrian desert. As the name implies it is an oasis, the palm orchards still gracing the edge of the site. It was for a time a magnificent Roman way station on the silk road, and the colonnaded caravanserais still await the return of the camels. But trade routes moved elsewhere and the town died intact. The chaos in the middle east created by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 has not only ravaged Syria and Iraq, it now threatens the very institutions of democracy in the world in the form of nationalistic reactions to the mass migrations of refugees fleeing the region. While the destruction of monuments cannot be compared to the destruction and division of societies in all of our affected nations, for many the loss of such architectural heritage is deeply felt. Much of the architecture on this page, having survived almost 2 millennia, has now been reduced to rubble.