The road to Raqqa is the narrow artery upon which the survival of the Syrian regime depends.
Along its route, from Damascus in the south to Aleppo in the north, it is lined with army encampments.
But where the road reaches the borders of the Islamic State, this secure corridor ends.
It takes a brave - or desperate - soul to travel the road beyond.
When you see them at the last government checkpoint, very few want to talk about life in the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State.
But today we met one young woman with the courage to speak.
I can’t tell you her name or even tell you her job. She still has family in the town and fears for their safety.
It’s soon clear why.
We can't leave...there's no life. You are dead there.
A driver who has brought a coachload of passengers from Raqqa, again insisting he masks his face before we roll our camera, tells me the town is full of foreign fighters. Many are Europeans.
Close to where we speak, there there are the ruins of a Roman temple.
This land is marked by the monuments of ancient empires that have risen and fallen away
But the Islamic State is still growing stronger.