Now Aleppo or Halab with 3 million people (2000), it is
Syria's second largest city 193 kilometers north of
Homs and 350 kilometers north of
Damascus. It is the capital of Aleppo
governorate, NW Syria, and it is a commercial center located in a
semidesert region. In the Aleppo city there is a big Turkish /Armenian
community who are mainly Christian. There is also a large Russian community.
This can be seen by the numerous Russian signs that adorn many shops.
Aleppo, has an international airport and is accessible, via train with other
cities and countries. (Aleppo
Historically it is said that Abraham was camping on the
acropolis which, long before his time, served as the foundation of fortress
(where the Aleppo citadel is standing now) and he milked (Halab) his Grey
cow there. This is how Aleppo got the name of "Halab al-Shahba
Aleppo is famous for its citadel that towers over it. Traditionally a
city of trade, especially before the Suez canal, it used to link Europe and
India. A truly charming oriental city. Aleppo is the city of Architecture.
One can find various styles in it; architectures of the XIIIth and XIVth
centuries, like the caravanserais, coranic schools and Hammams (so called
Turkish baths), in the old city. Architecture of the XVIth and XVIIth
centuries, in the residencies of the delicate bourgeoisie of the “Jdayde”
quarter, with its magnificent stone engravings. Baroque Architecture of
XIXth and the beginning of the XXth centuries, in the “Azizyeh” quarter
(e.g. la Villa Rosa). The new chic “Shahba” quarter is a mixture of several
styles, i.e. Neo -Classic, Norman, Oriental, etc. You can even find some
Chinese pagodas. Aleppo is built entirely from stone.
The city was inhabited perhaps as early as the 6th millenium B.C and
competes with Damascus on being the oldest inhabited city in the world.
It appeared in the Hittite archives in central Anatolia and in the archives
of Mari on the Euphrates. In the 14th–13th cent. B.C. it was
controlled by the Hittites. Later, Aleppo was a key point on the
major caravan route across Syria to Baghdad (Iraq). From the 9th to the 7th
cent. B.C. it was mostly ruled by Assyria and was known as
Halman. It was later (6th cent. B.C.) held by the Persians
and Seleucids. In 333 BC, Aleppo was taken over by Alexander the
Great, and was kept under the Greeks for 300 years in the form of the
Seleucid Empire. During this time Aleppo was an important trading city,
between the Euphrates and Antioch. Seleucus I (d. 280 B.C.) rebuilt much of
the city, renaming it Berea. The city’s commercial importance was
enhanced by the fall of Palmyra . In 64 BC
Pompey brought Syria under Roman domination. It remained under Roman
control in the form of the Byzantine Empire and was a major center of
Christianity, and huge cathedral was built in it (which is still standing)
until 637AD, when the Arabs took overin; subsequently, In 944 Aleppo
was taken over by the Hamdani's whose made it virtually
independent of the Abbasid Caliphate. Under the first Hamadanid
Seif al-Daula (who built Aleppo’s famous citadel) the city enjoyed great
prosperity and fame in science, literature and medicine, despite this
leader’s military ambitions. Mention should be made of the two most
prominent poets, al-Mutanabbi and Abu al-Firas; of the
philosopher and scientist, al-Farabi the foremost Arab thinker before
Avicenna; and of the linguist, Ibn Kahlaweh, all of who lived in
Sayf al-Dawla’s court and were renowned for great knowledge and scholarship.
It was unfortunate for Seif al-Daula that at the end of his reign his
Byzantine opponent should have been the capable Emperor Nicephorus Phocas.
Successive Greek invasions gave the dynasty no chance to get a secure
footing and soon after the Emir's death the brilliance passed away.
In 962 AD it was retaken by the Byzantine Empire and in 1098, it was
circled by soldiers from the First Crusade who could not conquer it, but
paralyzed its commercial power. It was besieged again in 1124 by another
Crusade, and then taken over by Zengi and his successor Nur al Din, and
Saladin captured it in 1183, making it his stronghold. At the death of
Saladin the Ayyubid dynasty was perpetuated in Aleppo. At the
Mameluke period, trade was diverted from Aleppo to the North in
Antioch and to the South through Palmyra.
But when the Mongol Empire under Hulagu Khan (1260) and by Timur
(1401) broke up and some converted to Islam, trade resumed through Aleppo.
In 1517 the Ottoman Empire annexed Aleppo, which then became a great
commercial city. From 1832 to 1840 it was held by Muhammad Ali of Egypt.
In the late 19th cent., Aleppo’s importance declined as
Damascus grew and the Suez Canal and other
trade routes were developed. The city revived under French control
after World War I and Aleppo's trade rose with the arrival of Armenian
refugees, who fled the Ottoman massacres. But after France had given Antioch
to Turkey, Aleppo lost its Mediterranean outlet.
Nassiro Khosrau, the Persian traveler who visited the town as early as
1047, says that customs were then levied there on merchandise to and from
the whole Middle East, and that merchants and traders from the surrounding
lands restored there.
A Christian traveler at about the same time says that in the cloth bazaar
alone goods to the value of 20,000 dinars changed hands daily. Neither was
the discovery of the Cape route to India as fatal as might have been
expected. The Levant company and the merchants of Marseilles and Venice, who
established the town as the chief depot for European trade at the eastern
end of the Mediterranean, maintained a very considerable activity. Even the
opening of the Suez Canal was not quite as disastrous for Aleppo as for
other caravan cities; the town could still tap the traffic of regions to the
north and east which remained comparatively unaffected by the new
Main attractions and historical building
The attractions of the city of Aleppo is
- its 13th-century citadel witch it was built by Seif al-Daula
al hamadani on the remains of earlier civilizations. The citadel’s fortified
entrance is a marvelous example of Arab military architecture. On the north
and south sides, great towers rise above the moat. This moat, 20 meters deep
and 30 meters wide, emphasized the fortress’s proud isolation. The main
parts of the citadel are: The throne room, the bathroom, the small mosque
- 12th-century Great Mosque or Al-Jami al-Kabir (was built by
the Umayyad dynasty witch is one of the largest mosques in the world). The
great mosque built in 1213 whose square minaret is 21 meters high and from
which can be seen a splendid view
- Souqs (Old Markets): In terms of spaciousness and
originality, the covered souqs of Aleppo, which extend for more than 10
kilometers, are the most striking in any Islamic city. The souqs are named
after the various crafts: hence, we find the souq of gold, the souq of
copper, cotton, etc. Traditionally, there is always a fountain in the center
and sometimes a little garden planted with jasmine and roses. Most of these
souqs date back to the 15th century. They are living museum, which depict
- Commercial Khans (caravanserais): The Khans are in the same area as
the souqs, since they were used for the accommodation of traders and their
goods. Their beautiful facades and entrances characterize these Khans; their
high arches and portified wooden doors. Some of these Khans are Banadiqa
Khan, ‘Banadiqa’ in Arabic being the term of ‘inhabitants of Venice',
Jumruk Khan (customs), Wazir Khan (minister) and Saboun Khan
- Various 17th-century medersas (Old schools),
churches, palaces, hammams (public bath houses),
ancient houses, some dating back to the 15th century, like
the al-Bunduqiah (Venetian) Consulate, which contains superb
ornaments and antiquities.
- Other attractions to the city of Aleppo include, the National
Museum or Archaeological Museum witch contains exhibits from the
stone age to modern times. It has particularly interesting collection of
antiquities from some of the most ancient sites in Syria including Mari,
Ugarit, and Ebla, as well as
objects found in the Euphrates Basin, Hama,
Tell Halaf and Ein Dara, in addition to remains from Greek,
Roman, Arab and Islamic periods.
- More attractions are the Museum of Popular Tradition and
the Baron Hotel. The Baron Hotel has seen the likes of US
President Theodore Roosevelt, Aviator Charles Lindbergh, Kemal Attaturk
(founder of Turkey), Lady Louis Mountbatten, author Agatha Christie and her
archaeologist husband Sir Max Mallowan. None more famous than T.E.
Lawrence of Arabia, whose rooms are available.