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Of all the towns of Syria it is Aleppo that leaves the profoundest impression upon the visitor.
Aleppo AL-Chahba, 355 Kilometers from Damascus, has been a prosperous city since the 3rd millennium B.C. and has maintained its status through town development and an increasing population. It has played a vital role in the history of the area from the time of the Akkadian and Amorite Kingdoms. Until recently it has always been the center of the junction of the ancient trade routs.
Aleppo is situated in the northern part of Syria, at an altitude of 379 meters above sea level. A population of about 2,500,000 is spread over an area of 16,142 square kilometers. It has a four season climate and temperature range from +3 C. degrees in winter to 35 C. degrees in summer. The county itself divided into nine administrative regions: Aleppo, Samaan, Al-Bab, Al-Safira, Ain Al- Arab, Jerablos, I'zaz, Afrin, and Manbej.
The old city was surrounded by a wall incorporating defense towers and fortified gates built during the Islamic period. A large part of the wall still standing, for example Bab Qinis"rin, Bab Al-Nasser, Bab Al-Hadid, Bab Antakia.
Aleppo is also known for its mosques and churches and is considered the third city in the Islamic world because of the number of its mosques and schools.
Since the construction of the Thawra Dam, the Euphrates River irrigates the surrounding plains. Aleppo plays an important role in the production of cotton and wheat. It is specially known for its delicious pistachio nuts, and for its traditional industries and modern factories.
The city of Aleppo witnesses two important events each year: The Agricultural and Industrial Products Fair in August and the Cotton Festival in September. Aleppo is connected to cities around the country by a network of roads and can easily be reached by public transport.
Hotels and boarding houses of different standards meet every taste. the many restaurants offer a wide variety of well-known local dishes in addition to continental food. The county has many parks that guarantee the visitor a pleasant stay with a minimum of expense.
A Walk In Aleppo
The Damascus road ends in a wide esplanade leading up to the ramparts of the old city - the first houses rise above their towers. Beneath them are little shops and stalls. To the right are the bus station and a vast open market always thronged with people. To the left, behind the flowerbeds is the Tourist Information Office. Opposite, is a large, low simple building that houses a rich collection of the archaeological museum. It can by identified by some mythological animals on the lawns outside.
Between the Tourist Office and the museum lies the beginning of the Baron street, soon crossed by the al Kouwatly street. In this part of town, there are hotels, travel agencies, transport company office, as well as some restaurants and food shops and cool fruit juice bars decorated with garlands of oranges and multi-colored jars.
A left turn from the Baron street into the al Kouwatly street brings us to a wide esplanade recently planted out as public gardens, dominated by the Post Office and bordered on the north by a public park. The river Quweiq flows through it and it is famous for its floral displays. (It is dry today because Turkey stopped its flow years ago.
Historically it is said that Abraham was camping on the acropolis and milked his grey cow there. This is how Aleppo got the name of "Halab al-Shahba"
Aleppo claims to be one of the oldest inhabited areas, and the claim is supported by the archaeological site of Tell Al- Mraebet, an agricultural settlement that dates from the 9th millennium B.C. The Kingdom of Aleppo flourished in the 3rd millennium B.C. at the same time as Ebla, and the city state of Akkadia. The region witnessed the passage of successive civilizations: Amorites, Hittites, Arameans, Macedonians, Seleucids, Romans and Byzantines. In the year 637 A.D. the area became part of the Islamic Empire. The many city walls, towers, castles, schools, and mosques date from that period.
The Archaeological Museum contains exhibits from the stone age to modern times. It has particularly interesting collection of antiquities from some of the most ancient site in Syria (Mari, Ugarit, Ebla) , objects found in the Euphrates Basin, Hama, Tell Halaf and Ein Dara, in addition to remains from Greek, Roman, Arab and Islamic periods.
Aleppo was a key town on the trade routes for thousands of years (the silk route among others) and still uses, for local and regional trade, a considerable proportion of the facilities that were developed in the time of the caravans: khans, courtyards as warehouses with workshops around them : kilometers of narrow covered streets where traders and craftsmen congregate according to their various callings and specialties.
A three-day tour of Aleppo
This tour outline is only a suggestion. It is designed to offer a varied program for each day and to alleviate as far as possible the fact that Aleppo can only really be seen on foot.
First day: The ramparts, Bab Antakia, the al Bharamyah Mosque, the covered souks, the Great Mosque and neighboring building, the Citadel.
Second day: the Jedeide district ("Old houses", St. George Cathedral, antique shops), the souk of coppersmiths, the al Mahmandar Mosque, the Armenian churches, the Archaeological Museum, the Public Gardens and Zoo, the University quarter.
Third day: the al Firdows Madrassa, Bab Qinnesrin, the Bimarstan (asylum) Arghoun al Kamili, the Cotton souk (caravansaries and neighboring building), the al Atroush Mosque (and other buildings nearby) the Museum of Popular Art and Traditions (in the Ageckbash Palace).
These different sight will now be briefly described in the above order.
Of course this minimum stay in Aleppo should be extended by another three days or more to see some of the sight further afield: Qalaat Samaan, al Bara, Cyrrhus, al Thaura, Rasafah, etc.
Aleppo was a key town on the trade routes for thousands of years and still uses, for local and regional trade, a considerable proportion of the facilities that were developed in the time of the caravans: khans, courtyards as warehouses with workshops around them: kilometers of narrow covered street where traders and craftsmen congregate according to their various calling and specialties. This busy center of the old city naturally had many public buildings: mosques schools (madrassas), baths (hammams), hospitals and asylums (bimarstans), as well as the occasional foreign consulate - the Venetian one dates back to the beginning of the 13th century.
1- THE CITADEL OF ALEPPO:
The largest and perhaps the most impressive historical monument in Aleppo. It is situated at the center of the city on a hill about 40 meters high. Reconstructed on the orders of prince Seif Al-Dawleh Al-Hamadani. Its style combines austerity with beauty. Beautiful towers are built into the walls, its imposing entrance is protected by metal doors, and its fortifications are strengthened by a deep moat. Inside the citadel is a small museum containing objects found during its restoration.
The Road to the citadel
There are many interesting routes through the old city to the Citadel.
The simplest, and with no means the least picturesque, begins by passing through the postern gate in the middle of the ramparts, known as the Bab Antakia, the Antioch Gate. This lead directly into the central axis through the souks; it is covered by vaulted roof for most of its 800 meters and brings us out as the foot of the mound on which the Citadel stands. Bab Antakia can be reached by going through an archway on the northwest corner of the ramparts and taking the first narrow street to the right. This leads up to the rampark walk, lined today with houses; there is a good view down onto the crowded esplanade.
Starting again from the north-west corner of the rampark, the wide al Moutanabi street leads to a square with a fountain: from there a wide street lined with large modern buildings takes us to the Great Mosque and the interesting buildings in its vicinity.
There is a circular road around the foot of the Citadel. To the south, wide avenues give access to some interesting madrassas and mosques on the way to Bab al Makkam, a working district where there are many warehouses. To the north of the Citadel the street al Kawakbi crosses the eastern end of the street al Kouwatly near the picturesque souk of the coppersmiths.
The southern ramparts, partly cleared of houses, lead to the impressive of all the fortified gates: Bab Qinnesrin. From here a long narrow street brings us back to the central part of the covered souks and to the Great Mosque. South of Bab Qinnesrin, half-hidden by an expanse of cemeteries, lies the beautiful madrassat al Fardos.
The outskirts to the north and east, expanding residential and industrial areas, have nothing to tempt the tourist. To the west some attractive suburbs are being built; from the hillsides they have a fine view of the old city.
2- THE GREAT OMAYYAD MOSQUE:
Jami Al- Kabir, is the largest and one of the finest in the city. Built in the time of the Omayyad Caliph Suleiman Ibn Abdul Malek. Its notable features are the beautiful square minaret, its prayer niche (mihrab), and the pulpit made of ebony inlaid with ivory.
3- THE OLD COVERED MARKET (SOUK):
They run through 10 kilometres of narrow streets. The souks became known by the products sold there. For example, the perfume souk is called Souk Al-Attareen and the jewellers souk is called Souk Al- Saagha. Most of them date from the 15th and 16th centuries A.D. and can be considered true popular museums.
4- THE INNS OR CARAVANSERIA (KHAN)(SOUK):
They are located near the souks because they were frequented by the merchants. They have tastefully decorated facades, high arched entrances, and huge wooden doors reinforced with metal and copper. The most famous are Khan Al-Gomrok, Khan Al-Wazeer, Khan Al-Saboon and Khan Ashouneh.
5- HISTORICAL BATHS:
Aleppo has about 60 baths (hammam) some of which were built more than 800 years ago. Hammam Yalbugha Al- Nasseri, built in the 14th century, was restored by the Ministry of Tourism and has been open to the public since 1985.
6- Other Places to visit
The National Museum; this includes in particular documents and relics from Ebla and Mari.
-Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions.
-al-Jami' al-Kabir (The Great Mosque), similar to the Omayyad mosque in Damascus.
-Old schools, churches, mosques, baths and ancient houses, some dating back to the 15th century, like the al-Bunduqiah (Venetian) Consulate, which contains superb ornaments and antiquities.
- QAL'AT SAM'AN (SAINT SIMON)
- THE CHURCH OF QALB LAWZI (IDLEB)
- EBLA (TEL MARDIKN-IDLEB)
- PALACES OF SEMI-DESERT
- Afrin (G)
- Ayn Dara
- Castel Of Najm
Shallal Midanki (G)
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