"Aleppo - حلب" Top 5 Page for this destination Aleppo by MM212
Aleppo Travel Guide: 754 reviews and 1,837 photos
THE MINARET OF THE GREAT MOSQUE HAS BEEN DESTROYED!
SAVE ALEPPO'S HERITAGE NOW!
Aleppo, Halab in Arabic, Beroea to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, is modern Syria's second city. Like its arch-rival, Damascus, Aleppo claims to be the longest continuously inhabited city in the world, a title sometimes also claimed by Byblos and Jericho. History may not tell us which came first, but we do know that, for centuries and as recently as the 19th, Aleppo was Greater Syria's largest city, and the Ottoman Empire's third, after Constantinople and Cairo. Although relatively close to Damascus in distance, Aleppo is distinct in identity, architecture and culture, all shaped by a markedly different history and geography.
The city's significance in history has been its location at the end of the Asian Silk Road, which passed through central Asia and Mesopotamia. Its periods of rise and fall throughout time have thus been directly linked to this very path, which conquerors have repeatedly tried to divert and control. Aleppo's last apogee began in the 13th century when its Ayyubid ruler signed a treaty with the Venetians to allow them to settle and trade in the city. In the 16th century, Venice led the way by opening a permanent consulate in Aleppo, and France, England and Holland soon followed. As a result, the city flourished during the following three centuries. It is from Aleppo that merchandise travelled to Europe, which made the city a bridge between east and west, greatly enriching it in the process, both culturally and economically. This cultural melting pot is still evident today not only in its beautiful architecture, but also in the multi-ethnic faces of its local population. Christian Arabs and Armenians, who frequently served as intermediaries to the Europeans, gradually settled here from other parts of the region and constituted as much as 25% of the city's population, the highest concentration of Christians in the Middle East after Beirut. Aleppo once also had a large prosperous Jewish community, which was unfortunately led to emigrate following tensions arising from the creation of Israel.
When the Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869, trade was diverted to sea and Aleppo began its slow decline. At the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Aleppo ceded its northern hinterland to modern Turkey, as well as the important railway connecting it to Mosul. Then in the 1940s it lost its main access to the sea, Antioch and Alexandretta (Iskenderun), also to Turkey. Finally, the isolation of Syria in the past few decades further exacerbated the situation, though perhaps it is this very decline that has helped to preserve the old city of Aleppo, its mediaeval architecture and traditional way of life to this day. Aleppo is now experiencing a noticeable revival and is slowly returning to the spotlight. It recently won the title of the "Islamic Capital of Culture 2006", and has also witnessed a wave of successful restorations of its treasured monuments.
Aleppo is an enchanting city. The old city is incredibly charming, and its souk is most fascinating. Its cuisine is the best in Syria.Yet, despite its charms, the city has been completely untouched by mass tourism. I was in Aleppo for only two days during my tour of Syria at the end of 2006 and again for three days in March 2008. It was such a joy to wander around the old city, its narrow cobbled alleys and covered souks, and to sample its delicious cuisine. When visiting Syria, make sure to dedicate more, rather than less time to Aleppo. It is a true gem that is not to be missed.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I have recently noticed that one of Wikipedia's editors copied large sections of my introduction verbatim to Wikipedia's Aleppo page. I do not know whether to feel proud or cheated. Although, naturally, I rely heavily on other sources (travel guidebooks, history books, internet, and sometimes even Wikipedia), I never plagiarise.
Syria itinerary in Dec 2006:
Damascus - Maaloula - Krak des Chevaliers - Homs - Palmyra/Tadmur - Hama - Apamea - Aleppo - Al Barah/Serjilla - Damascus
Syria & Lebanon itinerary in Mar 2008:
Damascus - Hama - Apamea - Aleppo - Saint Simeon - Mushabbak Church - Hama - Homs - Damascus - Beqaa Valley & Beirut
- In a nutshell:My favourite city in Syria
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