Aleppo Journals

Aleppo: Syria's Second City

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A September 2004 trip to Aleppo by HobWahid

Roman Ruins Photo, Aleppo, Syria More Photos
Quote: Aleppo is Syria's second city after Damascus, and, although they are in the same country today, the two cities have very different pasts, which has created two very different cities. With old souks, mosques, and a citadel, Aleppo is a history lover's dream.

Aleppo: Syria's Second City

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Overview

Aleppo Photo, Aleppo, Syria
Quote:
The highlight of Aleppo is indeed its Old City. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old City is a maze of narrow streets lined with souks and mosques. You could easily spend a few hours touring the souks and chatting it up with the friendly locals.Next to the Old City is The Citadel, a large fortress atop a 50m tall hill and surrounded by a moat that gives great views of the city and has an excellent throne room.St. Simeon, the grand ruins of a Byzantine church is the greatest site outside of Aleppo and definitely worth the half-hour it takes to get there.Quick Tips: How long should I stay?: Aleppo is Syria's second largest city, but the sight...Read More

Hanadi Hotel

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Hotel

Quote:
While there are no real major chains, there is certainly no shortage of hotels in Aleppo. If you like luxury, you can certainly find it at the Cham Palace and others, but if you are a bargain traveler, there is certainly a fair share of cheap lodging, as long as you don’t care about sharing a shower and bathroom.I opted for a place slightly below the middle of the road, the Hanadi Hotel. The hotel is located right off the main square of the downtown area in a restored old house. From here, you can easily walk all the main sights of Aleppo (Citadel, Old City, Jdide) and there are plenty of restaurants, both cheap and expensive, nearby, so you should never really have to hop a taxi anywhere....Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 20, 2004

Hanadi Hotel
Near Ba al-Faraj St.
Aleppo, Syria

Roman Ruins

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Attraction

Roman Ruins Photo, Aleppo, Syria
Quote:
The limestone hills surrounding Aleppo were, for much of history, considered uninhabitable. There was little water and little fertile land and, in addition to that, the area was prone to multiple invasions and instability. All that changed when, under the stability of the Roman Empire, a few intrepid Romans decided to plant some olive trees. Olive trees are peculiar because it takes them at least 10 years before they bear any fruit, so these Romans planted the trees and then waited impatiently for their fruits. Their foresight paid off when the area soon became a massive olive production area and the Roman farmers became extremely wealthy from the trade money. Their settlements soon turned into small ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 20, 2004

Roman Ruins
Area surrounding Aleppo
Aleppo, Syria

St. Simeon

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Attraction

St. Simeon Photo, Aleppo, Syria
Quote:
By far the most impressive set of ruins around Aleppo are those of the Basillica of St. Simeon, known as Qala’at Samaan in Arabic. Lying on the top of a large limestone hill, St. Simeon is an impressive fifth-century Byzantine church that was considered the grandest Christian monument for about 100 years, until the founding of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.The church is built on the sight where the third-century monk, St. Simeon, began his peculiar habit of living atop various pillars, spending his whole time praying to God and never coming down. For 42 years St. Simeon sat atop his pillars welcoming pilgrims and sharing his advice, creating a huge cult following. Byzantine authorities finally bu...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 20, 2004

St. Simeon
Jebel Samaan
Aleppo, Syria

Citadel of Aleppo

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Attraction | "The Citadel of Aleppo"

Citadel of Aleppo Photo, Aleppo, Syria
Quote:
The Citadel of Aleppo is a must-see, no doubt about it. In fact, it’s practically unavoidable. It sits there atop a large hill, on the edge of the Old City, staring down with protecting eyes, its towering walls sinking down into a deep (but now dry) moat, with the only access being from a long bridge built atop sturdy arches protected by two gate houses. Standing at the edge of the moat, staring up at the stone behemoth above will make you feel utterly insignificant. It’s no wonder the Crusaders never succeeded in their multiple attempts to capture the city.The mound on top of which the Citadel sits, is so perfectly shaped, that you would assume it to be artificial, but in fact it is perfectly natu...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 20, 2004

Citadel of Aleppo
Center Of The Old City of Aleppo
Aleppo, Northern Syria

Walking around Jdide Quarter

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Attraction

Walking around Jdide Quarter Photo, Aleppo, Syria
Quote:
The Jdide Quarter (the New Quarter) is probably the most interesting part of Aleppo after the Old City. Built in the late Ottoman period (17th to 18th centuries), it’s not exactly what many of us would call new. The quarter became the home of the large Christian community of Aleppo, mainly Maronites and Armenians, and that is how it remains today. The Jdide Quarter with its narrow streets and balconied houses maintains a completely different identity and air than that of the rest of Aleppo. Walking through the covered cobblestone streets, it is easy to forget that you are in Syria at all. Indeed for most of its history, this was the wealthy part of town and it still maintains remnants of that t...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 20, 2004

Walking around Jdide Quarter
Jdide Quarter
Aleppo, Syria

Touring the Old City of Aleppo

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Story/Tip

Old City Photo, Aleppo, Syria
Quote:
The old city of Aleppo is a confusing labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, covered bazaars, khans, mosques and madrasas, unlike any other in the world. Of all the great old cities of the Islamic world (I have been to from Marrakesh to Cairo to Istanbul), Aleppo is by far the most spectacular. It is so unique in fact that UNESCO has declared it a world heritage site. Walking through the old souks of Aleppo is the closest you can get to actually stepping back in time and witnessing the hectic life of an Islamic old city. Most of the structures and souks in the old city of Aleppo are of Ottoman construction, and it was during the Ottoman period that Aleppo reached the ...Read More

Taking a Bath

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Story/Tip

Hammam Photo, Aleppo, Syria
Quote:
If you have never had the pleasure of experiencing a hammam (Turkish bathouse) before, then the Hammam Yalbougha al-Nasri in Aleppo is a great place to do it. In the mid-1980s, the Syrian government restored this 14th-century Mameluke hammam to full working order and opened it back up to the public. This hammam is one of the largest, and certainly most ornate, hammams in all of Syria. From the outside the building looks like a typical Mameluke structure with a large entranceway and black and white stones, but, once you enter, a long and winding hallway takes you down into the main salon of the hammam, a large, lavishly decorated room with a raised platform ...Read More

Touring the Ruins Around Aleppo

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Story/Tip

Mushabbak Photo, Aleppo, Syria
Quote:
The most spectacular sights around Aleppo are the "dead cities" and St. Simeon, both covered in other entries, but, if you have a couple of days in Aleppo and are not short on time, I recommend extending your excursion to St. Simeon to include a few of the other sights buried in the limestone mountains. You can easily see them all (including St. Simeon and the dead cities) on one day-long excursion. Public transportation in this area is minimal and most of the sites are beyond the reach of minibuses, so if you have rented a car (not a bad idea for touring Syria) then you will have no trouble. If you do not have a car, it is perfectly easy to arrange a tour through your hotel. It should cost around $20...Read More
Quote:
This is just an anecdote from my travels that I thought fit to share. Now, I have traveled all over the Middle East and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me, but I'm relating the story so that if it ever happens to you, you will know what to do.There I was, in the courtyard of the Forty Martyrs Armenian Church in Aleppo quietly reflecting on the Armenian Genocide memorial when a discreet old man approached. "Where are you from?" He asked in Arabic. "America," I responded. He smiled, revealing a full set yellow, but surprisingly healthy teeth and asked if I would drink some tea. I politely declined, and then as Arab custom dictates, declined the next two offers. F...Read More