Aleppo before the war
*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 to be rebuilt.
During the rule of the sultan Nur ad Din the great bazaar was reconstructed in Aleppo, 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 they have kept the city live so many centuries.
Spices, perfumes, textile, silk, carpets, jewelry, they all remain 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 make me stop right by his stall, regardless to the goods he sells, being pistachios or gold. There were only 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 would have had to prepare himself to immerse into deafening noise, crowds of merchants who loudly advertised their goods, haggling all the way through. Only by the tone of the voice I have heard behind, I have actually suspected that someone was trying to warn me about some bike coming straight at me or a full cart man was trying to push through that narrow passage with goods „for a good price“, and always „just as made for you“.
It was easy to spot Syrians there in the crowd because they knew what they came for, they were haggling, being all relaxed, buying things, while I was just wandering around, didn’t even recognize all the stuff I have seen, and the moment I stopped to take a second look, that was it, like caught up in the web!
Well, 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 have bought a traditional remedy “for male impotence“ while being – a female!
The deeper I went into the souk, the narrower those passages became and there was less day light coming through. Among further sections of the souk there was one that „specialized“ in meat. It was not that pleasant to see all those sheep heads hanging around, even the air became heavy here, it was a bit hard to breath in and out without feeling dizzy. Anyway, I just had to keep in mind that the exit was not that far where ever I was and that I would come out to the Citadel surroundings once again.
Another drinking fountain?
Aleppo was not just the town of the old souk and the ancient fortress, it actually had a modern district as well where you could come across flashy stores as anywhere else in the world. This was where Syrians came for a walk in the evenings. But, one just had to notice that there were parts of Aleppo 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 with the French influence and design there, but also with a lot of details typical for Arabic and Oriental style. But, these constructions were decrepit, looking like they will fall down right then and there in front of your eyes.
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 one cute, smiling boy who was sitting at his ruined terrace without any fence. It seemed he was cooling down up there.
Heavy traffic, vivid town, a lot of people were driving one of those small colorful trucks. For those who get thirsty, there were drinking fountains at every corner.
Well, they were actually 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.
Selfie or two
One more thing on had to notice in Aleppo – people were genuinely pleasant and they 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, from huge courtyard of one of the local schools few girls came out, dressed in black abayas.
A group of those pulled me into one of the courtyards to make a selfie or two, giggling all the time. I guess that my blond (not covered) hair was interesting to them as much as their abayas were to me. Still cherish those photos!
In various cafes (alcohol free) 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 one beautiful mosque near the souk and a lot of things to buy along the way – from vine leaves, neatly packed, to donuts which the guy just kept „watering“ for some reason!
Next: MAALOULA (6)
The full Homage to Syria SERIES.
Thank you for sharing this. Good reminder of how “normal” life is before disruption. Will you try to go back?
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. 🙂
D of Love C and D
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.
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! 🙂
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.
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… 🙂
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!
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.
Oh yes, such a shame! Thank you, me too.
Thank you for sharing this. I think with everything we hear in the news we make up out own idea of what Syria must be like.
Exactly, we start thinking only in those terms we hear on the news, unfortunately. Thank you for visiting!
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.
Thank you for visiting, so glad you like it! 🙂
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.
Oh, yes, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have visited the country, thanks!
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.
Hopefully, some day soon, we’ll all be able to go.
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.
Oh, I know, thank you for being so kind. I’ve actually read that UNESCO is planning on helping rebuild Aleppo. Such a good news!