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  Field Notes From
Iraq's Treasures



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Iraq's Treasures On AssignmentArrows

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From Author

Andrew Lawler



Iraq's Treasures On Assignment

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From Photographer

Randy Olson



Iraq's Treasures On Assignment

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From Photographer

Steve McCurry



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Steve McCurry (top, center) and Mark Altaweel


 

Iraq's Treasures

Field Notes From Author
Andrew Lawler

Best Worst Quirkiest
    One evening at sunset I stood on the hill where Saddam Hussein's palace sat above Babylon. I had been to Babylon a few times before but never to the palace, which was strictly off-limits. From below, the looming palace had always seemed bombastic and out of place. But once I was on top, as the setting sun made the reconstructed ruins beneath me shimmer, I understood immediately why he had chosen this spot. Laid out at his feet was the lost glory of Babylon's heyday, golden in the fading light. It was a spectacularly evocative view.

    One of my most insecure moments was near Ctesiphon, a very old, vaulted palace. We had to weave our way through a village where young children roamed around a gun market. It all felt very uncontrolled. I could feel the chaos and rage that had exploded in Iraq. It was frightening to realize what it's like when a country loses control; more frightening than having guns pointed at us. It emphasized how fine the line was between order and chaos.

    Archaeologist Elizabeth Stone had an important call to make on the satellite phone while we were in the marshes to the south of Nasiriyah. She needed an undisturbed place, which was hard to find in Iraq. We drove and drove and drove through the marshes, transfixed by the beauty of the place. When we finally found a secluded spot, Elizabeth tramped into a date palm grove while I kept company with our driver. Suddenly children began to appear, followed shortly by adults. A herd of sheep even trotted by Elizabeth in the field.
    The kids were all polite, and I had a good discussion with the Marsh Arabs, who were very informed about politics. But it was surreal to see Elizabeth trying to make this quiet phone call surrounded by bedlam in the middle of nowhere.




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