This is the second
capital of Syria 350 km north of Damascus, and one of the oldest
continuously inhabited cities in history. Abraham (pbuh) is said to have
camped on the acropolis which, long before his time, served as the
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 3rd
millennium BC, Aleppo has been a flourishing city, with a unique
strategic position. This position gave the city a distinctive role from
the days of the Akkadian and Amorite kingdoms until modern times.
It was the meeting
point of several important commercial roads in the north. This enabled
Aleppo to be the link in trade between Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent
and Egypt. The Amorites made it their capital in the 18th century BC.
This position also made it subject to invasions from various races; from
Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks 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.
The conflict between
Byzantium and Persia, however, resulted in the latter's occupation of
Aleppo in 440 AD. The Persians robbed the city, burned considerable
parts of it and damaged many of its features. Though expelled by
Justinian, the Persians still threatened Aleppo and frightened its
inhabitants until the Arab Islamic conquest came in 636 AD.
The city then regained
its status, both cultural and commercial. Apart from the Umayyad and
Abbasid periods in which Aleppo flourished, the Hamadani state
established by Sayf Addawla in 944 AD made Aleppo the northern capital
of Syria. Sayf Addawla built Aleppo's famous citadel, and in his days
the city enjoyed great prosperity and fame in science, literature and
medicine, despite this leader's military ambitions. Mention should be
made of the two most prominent poets, Al-Mutanabbi and Abu Al-Firas Al-Hamadani;
of the philosopher and scientist, Al-Farabi; and of the linguist, Ibn
Kahlaweh, all of whom lived in Sayf Addawla's court and were renowned
for great knowledge and scholarship.
Aleppo was famous for
its architecture; for its attractive churches, mosques, schools, tombs
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 khans (caravanserai) are still in use even
today; one of them is called Banadiqa Khan, Banadiqa in Arabic being 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 today.
Nowadays, Aleppo is
famous for its ancient citadel with medieval fortress, the great Umayyad
mosque, and the extraordinary souqs (bazaars) with every conceivable
kind of article for sale. It was and still the far distant trade center
when Shakespeare mentioned it in Macbeth and Othello.
The old city was
surrounded by a wall incorporating defense towers and fortified gates
built during the Islamic period. A large part of the wall still
Museum of Aleppo contains exhibits from the stone age to modern times.
It has particularly interesting collection
of antiquities from some of the most ancient sites in Syria including
Mari, Ugarit, and Ebla, as well as objects found in the Euphrates
Basin, Hama, Tell Halaf and Ayn Dara, in addition to remains from
Greek, Roman, Arab and Islamic periods.
St. Simeon, Syria
The most beautiful and significant
monument to religious building between Roman period of the 2nd century
and northern European Christian masterpieces of the 11th century AD.
St. Simeon is a citadel 60 km north west
of Aleppo, named after the hermit Saint Simeon (Sam'an); a shepherd
from northern Syria, who became a monk after a revelation in a dream.
Following his death in 459 AD, Emperor Zenon
ordered that a cathedral be built where the saint used to pray
the layout was original, centering on
the famous column from which St. Simeon used to preach. Four
basilicas, arranged in the shape of a cross, opened into an octagon
covered by a dome, in the center of which stood the holy column. A
simplicity and harmony combine to make ruins of the Basilica of St.
Simon a masterpiece of pre-Islamic art in Syria.
St. Simeon of Stylites, whilst raising
himself up on his pillar of self-persecution could never have
guessed the elevation to be experienced by church construction 500
to 600 years later.