*I was fortunate enough to travel to Syria and see the country in 2008, three years before the war broke out. This homage to Syria is a reminder, the story about the country with immense cultural heritage, posted here with the wholehearted wish for peace to be restored and cities rebuilt.
Aleppo Syria Citadel is the post about one of the best-known landmarks of this ancient city.
It is situated in the northern part of Syria, and besides Damascus, it is one of the oldest settlements in the world. Before the war, it was a town full of tradition and monuments that exuded history. Aleppo was the capital of the mighty Yamkhad kingdom until 1780 BC when it fell under Hittites’ control. And it continued to be a target for invaders throughout history.
Aleppo was called Beroia in the 4th century BC. This is when the first city plan was created. It could still be recognized east of the Antioch Gate when I visited before the war. This town was extremely important for the Greeks and Romans, followed by the Arab and Muslim invaders in the upcoming centuries. Aleppo developed into a huge trading center where pilgrims on the way to Mecca stopped for a break.
It is deservedly referred to as – the Gate of Asia.
Aleppo Syria Citadel
When the town flourished in the 10th century AD, the original plan of the famous Aleppo Syria Citadel was designed.
This was the structure Aleppo was known for worldwide. The fortress was described as the most spectacular medieval structure in the Middle East and was still proudly standing before the last war, defying the ravages of time.
The Citadel is located on a 55-meter hill, dominating the area, and imposing in size. Because of its specific position, it was considered a threat to town authorities since it had its own government, and yet, it was still in the center of the town. Hence, it was under constant supervision. At one point, the fortress even had a governor who answered to the authorities of the city.
There were numerous traces of religious and civil monuments at the Citadel which were vastly destroyed by the earthquake in 1822. But the remains of the old public bathroom from the 11th century could still be found before the war, along with traces of the Grand Mosque founded by the Umayyads, and the Royal Palace.
Aleppo Syria Citadel: Fortress for 10,000 people
The first thing that struck me when approaching the fortress was the deep trench that surrounded it, separating it from the rest of the city.
There was the long medieval bridge which was once the only way to get into the fort, followed by the huge iron gates.
The trench was dug out during the Ayyubid’s rule and, even though the town got seriously damaged by the Mongols in 1260, it soon rose again. The fortress could receive about 10,000 people and it was fully supplied with all the things inhabitants might need.
The construction that was visible before the war in Aleppo appeared at the beginning of the 13th century and was built onto the ruins of the early Byzantine fort.
Unconquerable Walls of the Aleppo Syria Citadel
Invaders were supposed to go through the lateral gate where no tools could be used for breaking down the door because of its position, to reach the premises of the fort’s governor.
If by any chance they succeeded in going through the gate on the bridge and trying to break in, boiling oil and stones were thrown at them from the fort’s walls. Even if they were to overcome this obstacle, they were still supposed to follow the narrow corridor one by one where they would come across men with sabers.
Besides these rich and unconquerable premises, the fortress has housed bathrooms, a mosque, markets, etc.
Once I found myself here, I tried to imagine what the town was like back then – on the hill, heavily fortified, completely safe, and fully supplied.
I touched the walls and could feel I was standing on the very spot where the capital of the mighty kingdom stood 4,000 years ago.
When I climbed up to the Aleppo Syria Citadel, I took a walk around the fort and gazed at the town below. That is when I felt the power of the place being aware of the strategic importance of the fort’s position, since down there – there was the entire town like in the palm of your hand.
Next: ALEPPO BEFORE THE WAR
The full Homage to Syria SERIES