A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a Syrian policeman patrolling the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID        (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Meet the men taking up arms to protect the Middle East’s ancient treasures

Leptis Magna was deserted when I last visited — no wonder. Tourists daren’t visit Libya these days and so I had the ruins to myself. I climbed the steps of the vast Roman theatre, looked out to where the Wadi Lebda meets the sea, then stopped. Men with AK-47s. My immediate fear was that they were Islamic State. Isis move closer to Leptis Magna every day and it would make sense for this most spectacular site to be next on their hit list.