Aleppo Syria Glimpses of the World

Aleppo Before the War

*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, a story about the country with immense cultural heritage, posted here with the wholehearted wish for peace to be restored and cities rebuilt.

Welcome to the post about Aleppo before the war, the town that we only viewed from above from the Aleppo Syria Citadel in the previous article of this Syria travel series.

During the rule of the sultan Nur ad Din the great bazaar of Aleppo was reconstructed, the market this town was widely known for before the recent war. This was the covered Oriental souk where people came to trade, buy and sell goods in a manner that have kept the city alive so many centuries.

Aleppo before the war
Haggling along narrow passages of the souk

Aleppo Before the War

Spices, perfumes, textile, silk, carpets, jewelry, etc. remained almost the same and while I was walking by those lined up stalls and shops in 2008, I began to feel as if I was coming out of the time-machine!

Every merchant tried to stop us to consider his stall, regardless to the goods he was selling, be it pistachios or gold.

Typical scenes at the grand bazaar in Aleppo before the war

There were only a few of them “not that interested“ who were relaxing on the top of the pile of sacks or were dozing behind their counters. But one has to prepared to immerse into deafening noise, crowds of merchants who loudly advertised their goods, and haggling all the way through. Only by the tone of the voice I heard behind, I was able to notice that someone was trying to warn me about a bike coming straight at me or a full cart man was trying to push through the narrow passage with goods „for a good price“, and as always, „just as made for me“.

Dozing off behind the full stall

Aleppo Grand Bazaaar

It was easy to spot Syrians in the crowds because they knew what they came for, they were haggling, buying things, all relaxed and confident, while I was just wandering around and didn’t even recognize all the stuff I saw, and the moment I stopped to take a second look, I felt like caught up in the web. It was kind of embarrassing not to buy anything after the guy has put such an effort into displaying all of his goods before me, even if it turned out that I (a girl) bought a traditional remedy “for male impotence“.

Aleppo mosque
ALEPPO BEFORE THE WAR: Entrance to the mosque

The deeper I went into the souk, the narrower those passages became, and there was less daylight coming through. Among the sections of the souk there was one „specialized“ in meat, not that pleasant to see with all those sheep heads hanging around. I even felt a little dizzy. Still, I  had to keep in mind that the exit was not that far and that I would come out to the Citadel surroundings once again.

Another Drinking Fountain?

Aleppo before the war was not just the town of the old souk and ancient fortress, it had a modern district as well where you could come across expensive stores as anywhere else in the world. This was where Syrians came for a walk in the evenings.

Aleppo Syria
ALEPPO BEFORE THE WAR: Charming but neglected

Nevertheless, one just had to notice that there were parts of Aleppo before the war which were just too neglected and ruined. One of the streets I went through was full of old charming buildings. There might have been some French influence here with typical Arabic ornaments. But, these constructions seemed like they would down right then and there in front of your eyes.

Aleppo before the war
Friendly chats on the curb

That didn’t stop people who lived there to use what was left of the facilities. People just adapted to various circumstances, as they do anywhere else in the world. And so I was greeted by a cute, smiling boy who was sitting at his ruined terrace without a fence. It seemed like he was cooling down up there.


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A post shared by Mehdi Khoshnejad (@mehdi.khoshnejad)

You couldn’t help but notice the town‘s heavy traffic and a lot of people driving small colorful trucks. For those who get thirsty, there were drinking fountains at every corner.

Sweets, souk passage and ‘watered’ donuts

They were somewhat improvised taps with tin pots chained to them. But if you were not that thirsty, bottled water was always an option and easy to find in any store on the way.

A Selfie or Two

One more thing one had to notice in Aleppo before the war. People were genuinely pleasant and spent a lot of time outdoors. They used to bring out a chair or two, sit on the curb and chat. People from nearby stores were hanging out together. A few girls came out of a nearby school courtyard, all dressed in black abayas.

Aleppo Syria
Beautiful Syrian woman in a modern part of the town

They pulled me into one of the courtyards to take a selfie or two, giggling all the time. I guess that my bright (not covered) hair was interesting to them as much as their abayas were to me. I still cherish those photos.

In various alcohol free cafes there were nicely dressed young men and women, chatting and having coffee and narghile. Guys selling coffee on the street was also to be seen, just like in Damascus. There was a beautiful mosque near the souk and lots of things to buy along the way – from vine leaves, neatly packed, to donuts that the guy just kept „watering“ for some reason.


The full Homage to Syria SERIES

Aleppo Old Town

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0 responses

    1. So glad to be able to share, thanks! I might go back when things calm down on my way to the Middle East one day, even though I’d be devastated to see familiar places in ruins. Never the less, when peace is restored, anything is possible. 🙂

  1. Great post. I must admit to having no idea what Syria is/was like, outside of the scenes we seen on the UK news i.e. piles of rubble and empty, bullet riddled buildings. Aleppo sounds like it was beautiful; I like the sound of the noisy local market, that’s one of our favourite things to do when visiting new places. Here’s to hoping the war will be over soon and the people can return to rebuild their town. Thanks for sharing.

    1. That was one of the reasons to share, since we only talk about Syria in regards to six-year war. But Damascus is, for example, one of the oldest city in the world, dating back 5,000 years, making Syria so much more than “just another war”. Thank you so much for visiting, feel free to stop by again since there’ll be few more posts on Maalula and Palmyra in days to follow! 🙂

  2. This is beautiful! It’s so interesting there were drinking fountains everywhere. I wonder why that is? I definitely hope to visit when politics calm down.

    1. It tends to be very hot, so one can refresh at almost every corner. It actually wasn’t such a bad idea. But they did look a bit strange, with that tin cup chained to the small fence… 🙂

  3. I guess it’d be too fragile to endure constant bombing, but I do hope it stands. And it was one of the biggest souks in the Arab world. What an atmosphere that was, strolling among stalls there!

  4. Thank you for sharing a beautiful side of Syria. No one could have imagined how serene life was there back then. I just pray that things go normal there.

  5. This is such an eye opening post. It’s kinda sad that news everywhere talk about Syria in such a bad light. You are one of the lucky ones who were able to visit the place even before the tragedy happened, and shared your version of story. Thank you for the photos and memories of what used to be a great place.

  6. What a lovely post! This is such a stark contrast to the Alleppo we see today. Glad you got a glimpse of the prettier side of the town before the war broke out. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful images of the city.

  7. Lovely post about Syria. It’s not a country that had been on my radar before but the food and budget prices sure are tempting.

  8. I cry for the people of Syria as I read this post. What a difference a few years make. I pray that peace comes to them and that they are able to rebuild and that once again people will live in harmony and not in fear.

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