On Dalla Square, where uniformed teens sit around a chipboard fire at the first checkpoint into the city, Abdullah al-Arian notices that the smell is still there.
The smell of the “caliphate.” The smell of the military offensive. The smell of death.
It’s a Tuesday morning in November and Arian, a lawyer, is attempting to navigate his SUV around the piles of rubble and mounds of earth to get into the city he once called home. He is driving into the devastation, into the stench — into Raqqa. The city lies deathly quiet and empty beneath the autumn sun.