This is second capital of Syria ( 350 km north of Damascus ) , and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history . Abraham is said to have camped on the acropolis which , long before his time , served as a foundation of a fortress ( where the Aleppo citadel is standing now ) . He milked his grey cow there , hence Aleppo’s name : ‘ Halab al- Shahba ‘ .
Ever since the 3 rd millennium B.C , Aleppo has been a flourishing city ,with a unique strategic position . This position gave the city distinctive role from the days of the Akkadian and Amorite kingdoms until modern times . It was the meeting – point of sevsral important commercial roads in the north . This enabled Aleppo to be the link in trade between Mesopotamia
The fertile Crescent and Egypt . The Amotite made their capital in the 18 th century B.C .
This position made it subject to invasions from various races ; from Hitties , Egyptians , Assyrians , Persians , Greek and Romans . Aleppo was prominent in the Christian era ; it became a Bishopric and a huge cathedral was built in it , which is still standing .www.tartoos.com
The conflict between Byzantium and Persia , however , resulted in the latter’s occupation of Aleppo in 440 . The Presians robbed the city , burned considerable parts of it and damaged many of its features . Though expelled by Justinan , the Presians still threatened Aleppo and frightened its inhabitants until the Arab Islamic conquest came in 636 . The city then regained its status , both cultural and commercial . Apart from the Omayyad and Abbassid periods in which Aleppo flourished by sayf al-Dawal in 944 made Aleppo the northern capital of Syria . Sayf al-Dawla built Aleppo’s famous citadel , and in his days the city enjoyed great prosperity and fame in science , literature and meadicine , despite this leader’s military ambitions . Mention should be made of the tow most prominent poets , al-Mutanabbi and Abu al-Firas ; of the philosopher and scientist , al-Farabi ; and of the linguist , Ibn al-Dawla’s court and were renowned for great knowledge and scholarship .
Aleppo was famous for its architecture ; for its attractive churches , mosque , school , tombs and baths . As an important center of trade between the eastern Mediterranean kingdoms and the merchants of Venice . Aleppo became prosperous and famous in the centuries preceding the Ottoman era . Many of its ‘ Khan ‘ ( caravanserai ) are still in use even today ; one of them is called ‘ Banadiqa Khan ‘ Banadiqa’ in Arabic beign the term for ‘ inhabitants of venice’ .
In the Ottoman age , Aleppo remained an important center of trade with Turkey , France , England , and Holland . This caused various types of European architecture to be adopted in Aleppo which can be seen in many buildings todays .
he Aleppo Citadel
50 m above the city , a ring of crenellated walls and towers rises from a steep glacis , encircling a mass of ruins from every period . It has always been extremely important , both strategically and militarily . It was built in the days of Sayf al-Dawla 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 rises above the moat . The moat , 20 m deep and 30 m wide , emphasizes the fortress;s proud isolation .
The main parts of the citadel are : the throne room , the bathroom , the small mosque ( Ibrahim’s mosque ) , the great mosque built in 1213 whose square minaret is 21 m high and from which can be see a splendid view . Inside the citadel there is a small museum that contains relcs uncovered during restoration and reconstruction .
Worth visiting also are the high walls of ancient Aleppo , with their fortified doors ( Hadid , Antika , and Qinsrin ( which are fine example of Islamic military architecture .
Souqs and commercial Khans
In terms of spaciousness and originality , the covered souqs of Aleppo , which extend for more than 10 km , are the most striking in any Isalmic city . The souqs are named after the various crafts : hence , we find the souq of gold , the souq of copper , cotton , ect .
Traditionally , there is always a foundation in the center and sometimes a little garden planted with jasmine and roses . Most of these souqs date back to the 15 th century . They are living museum which depict medieval life .
The Khans ( caravanserai ) are in the same area as the souqs , since they were used for the accommodation of traders and their goods . These Kahan are characterized by their beautiful facades and entrance , their high arches and fortified wooden doors . Some of these Khans are : Jumruk ( Customs ) ,Wazir ( minister ) and Saboun ( soap ) .
laces to visit in Aleppo – 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 , bathes and ancient houses , some dating back to the 15 th century , like the al-Bounduqiah ( Venetian ) Consulate , which contains superb ornaments and antiquities .
Qal’at Sam’an ( Saint Simon ) This citadel is 60 km north-west of Aleppo . It was named after the hermit Saint Simon ( Sam’an ) , a shepherd fron northern Syria , who became a monk after revelation in a dream . Following Saint Simon’s death in 459 , the Emperor Zenon ordered that a cathedral be built where the Saint used to pray .www.tartoos.com The layout was original , centering on the famous column from which Saint Simon used to preach . Four basilicas , arranged in the shpe of a cross , opened into an octagon covered by a dome , in the center of which stood the holy column . It a beautiful church built on the ridge of the hill where Saint Simon had taken up ‘ residence ‘ . Simplicity and harmony combine to make the ruins of the Basilica of St.Simon an earthquake destroyed parts of the church less than half a century after it had been built ) a masterpiece of pre-Islamic art in Syria . In the 10 th century , some towers and walls were erected . It was then called ‘ Qal’at’an ( Simon’s citadel ) . It became the center of conflict between Byzantuim and the Hamadani kingdom; in 986 , the son of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani finaly captured it .
The church of Qalb Lawzi ( Idleb )
This is 65 km west of Aleppo . It dates back to the 6th century, and is a masterpiece of Syrian Byzantine art .
Ebla ( Tel Mardikn-Idleb )
This ‘ Tel is 25 km south-east of Idleb . It is the site of important and recent archaeological discoveries . Excavations in the ‘ Tel’have revealed a very old Syrian civilization , that of Ebla , which flourished in the 3 rd and 2 nd millenniums B.C .
In the palace of this great kingdom , a library containing more than 17,000 clay tablets was uncovered . These tablets are the earliest written documents in Syria .
Palaces of the Semi-Desert
It is located south the Euphrates and north of the Syrian semi-desert , 160 km south-east of Aleppo and 30 km south of the Aleppo-Raqqa road .
Rasafh palace was the residence of Hisham ibn Abdul Malik , the third Omayyad Caliph , whose age was a golden one , due to his great interest in the arts and in architecture . He had several palaces built in various parts of Syria . He was in favour of simplicity and modesty ; this is why he chose Rasafh as his restdence . There, he died and was buried .
The palace was originally a church, built to commemorate a Roman officer ( St.Sergius ) , who died in defence of Christianity in the 4 th century . In 616, the church was invaded by the Persians , robbed and destroyed . When Hisham ibn Abdul Malik became a caliph in the 8 th century, he built tow beautiful palaces on its site . Later , the Abbassids invaded and destroyed what the Caliph Hisham had built . Very little of the ruins of the Mar Sarkis church remain . Parts of the church have been used as a mosque ; inscriptions in both Arabic and Greek , engraved on the walls , indicate that Christians and Muslims co-existed peacefully in Syria from the 13 th century onwards .
Qase al-Hir al-Gharbi45 km south-west to Tadmor ( Palmyra ) , built by the Caliph Hisham ibn Abdul Malik in the 8 th century , this palace is square and surrounded by a huge wall , at each corner of which there is a round towers . At each side of the main gate there are tow half-rounded towers . It has a courtyard with columns with Corinthian crowns .
Qaser al-Hir al-Sharqi
110 km north-east of Palmyra, this palace was built by the Caliph Hisham in 628 . It contains a palace-residence for the caliph and for the garrisons . There is a small mosque built in the style of the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus . There is a bath with hot , warm and cold running water . This is the oldest Omayyad bath . The palace issurrounded by a wide garden .