Over 25 years ago, the UNESCO considered Aleppo City as one of the most important Islamic cities and kept it in the humane heritage record, because the walled city of Aleppo is the largest among the Islamic cities in history, it is 418 Hectares.
About 3 years ago, the Islamic Convention Organization and the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture discussed the idea of celebrating an annual festival in one of the Islamic cities to indicate the civilized aspect and the cultural influence of that city. The first festival was decided to be held in Mecca in 2005, and the festival of 2006 was decided to be in Aleppo as the conference that was held in Algeria in 2004 has stated.
Aleppo is more than 10.000 years old that is still beating with the heart of life. It is the only Islamic city in the world that carries an architectural heritage expressing every single period of The Islamic Civilization starting with al Sho’aybye Mosque that was built in the 7th century AD, through the Umayyad, Abbasid, Zingid, Ayyubid and Ottoman ending with our present day.
Aleppo retains ruins and structures that cover all periods, varying in their functions and purposes to support everyday activities in every phase; most of them belong to Islamic Rulers and Sultans. The citadel of Aleppo was transformed into a fortress in the 13th century AD under Saladin’s sun, Ghazi, who used it to defeat the Mongol invasions. One can distinguish the mosques in the old city and the new city with their magnificent way of built, and the art of mosaics that we find on the walls and the wooden ceilings. The Umayyad (the Great) Mosque is the example for the superior architecture levels Islam have accomplished in Aleppo structures through time.
The city also has the characterized by its strategic location on the crossroads between the 3 continents, so it has become an imperative passage for trading caravans along the history. That has been accompanied with improving the entertainment facilities and public utilities such as khans, restaurants, public baths, markets and industry. The Khans and Suqs that we find in Aleppo are Islamic features which we can find in all other Islamic cities. They were erected by the 16th century AD to provide the traders and the caravans the substantial materials they needed for the trade.
Aleppo is distinguished by its rich intellectual heritage. The royal court of Seif al-Dawlah is the best example to show the greatness of Aleppo heritage of literature, intellectual and scientific heritage, it gathered the greatest poets and scientists along the history “al Moutanabi – al Farabi – al Asfahani – al Khawarzmi – etc…”. During “al-Zaher al Ayyubid” rule, Aleppo was considered the pearl of Islamic cities concerning trade, economics and architecture fields; the glorious heritage that has been passed down since the 3rd millennium BC. The Islam has brought much to science and literature, therefore, in every Islamic city there has to be several schools to teach Holy Qur’an and Arabic literature. Aleppo still holds these valuable schools inside its antique walls.
By adding that to the cultural heritage of Aleppo, we can get the reason behind choosing this city to represent Islamic civilization for 2006 according to its historical and cultural importance.
Opening the festival activities:
The festival started with the opening of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, and declaring Aleppo as “The Capital of Islamic Culture for 2006”. The inauguration of the repairing works of the Mosque was a historic day for the city; it was dedicated by Mr. President Bashar al Assad and held the Friday prayer.
The festival on Saturday was opened by performing the operette of “Aleppo in History Pages”. The operate showed the history of the city since the 10th century BC till our present day through traditional folklore dance and singing performance.
A few anthems were then presented, and for the closure of the day, the great singer, Sabah Fakhri, performed a few of his best melodious songs.
The following week included various activities such as lectures and symposiums about literature, science, art and religion in Syria. The seminars aimed the correction of the idea that media is promoting about Islam and fixing the wrong image about Islam, that the world is receiving from the media.
During the festival along the year (2006), Aleppo witnessed a cultural revolution that has never happened; over 300 lectures and symposiums of various subjects many art performances were presented along the year to celebrate Aleppo, the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2006.