A WALK IN DOWNTOWN ALEPPO, Aleppo, Syria
After our extremely lucky hitchhike back to Aleppo, we had a quick bite at a cafe across the citadel. After lunch, I split with the group and headed back to the souq to get some souvenir, went to the main post office to for stamp collections, spent a bit of time at an internet cafe, wandered around the downtown area, and reunited with the group at the National Museum. Before the Syrian Civil War, Aleppo was the largest city in the country with a population of 4.6 million as of 2010. Wandering in downtown Aleppo offered me a brief moment to see the daily lives of Syrian city dwellers. The National Museum was a delight. One of the most impressive artefacts were the cuneiform tablets from Mari. The cuneiform script is one of the earliest written language of humans. Fortunately, the museum collection largely escaped the impact of the war. Artefacts were either stored in the basement or moved to Damascus. The remaining large statues outside the building were covered by sandbags for protection.
Without the overwhelming tourists of cities like Istanbul, the bustling downtown Aleppo in 2006 was the ideal place to check out the urban living in Syria.
Back in 2006, it was safe and pretty much hassle free to wander around downtown Aleppo alone.
In downtown Aleppo, it wasn’t easy to find a quiet corner to enjoy some lone time.
Except the souq, there were hardly any shops catered for tourists. Everyone in the city was just busy with his or her own business. As an outsider, I just took my time wandering around to take photos.
In 2006, six years after Bashar al-Assad became president of Syria, pictures of Assad could be seen all over Aleppo.
Large government buildings occupied entire street block became obvious targets for the rebels during the civil war.
In 2006, Aleppo won the title as one of the “Islamic Capitals of Culture 2006”. Cultural heritage were being restored and political propaganda from the Assad regime were put up at Saadallah al-Jabiri Square, including this spherical lighting feature.
Two blocks northwest of National Museum was the Saadallah al-Jabiri Square, the main public square in downtown Aleppo. A metal ball claimed to be largest in the Middle East was erected as part of the Islamic Capital of Culture event. Today, a large and colouful installation of “I Love Aleppo” has been put up along with significant restoration of the square after the battles of 2012.
At the National Museum, we got a chance to see the clay tablets from Mari, showcasing a kind of cuneiform script that was one of the earliest writing in the world. On 11 July 2016, heavy mortar shells hit the National Museum of Aleppo, causing extensive damages to the roof and structure. The statues at the entrance were covered in sandbags for protection during the war.
Aleppo City Hall is one of the tallest building in Aleppo.
Built in 1899, Bab al-Faraj Clock tower is a major landmark in Aleppo, with Sheraton Aleppo at the background. Opened in 2007, the former 5-star hotel has been converted into military barracks during the war.
The 15 storey Amir Palace Hotel at the background in the photo was another prominent hotel in prewar Aleppo. It was damaged during the war.
With significant damages from the Battles of Aleppo, it would take years to rebuild the downtown area.
In the next morning, we left the hotel early in the morning for our ongoing journey to Hama.