Trip Start Oct 02, 2010
14Trip End Oct 10, 2011
From outside the hotel was looking like an historical building. We asked for the rates, and it was quite cheap
ADVICE: might you ever visit Syria and going to stay in a cheap hotel, check your room in advance...
A small issue here we had is the language barrier. We didn't manage to find many Syrians who were able to speak English, German or French. Some of them could speak Turkish, thanks to the increasing number of Turks traveling to Syria, after Turkey and Syria lifted the Visa requirement. Unfortunately the old man from the reception was not able to speak any other language then Arabic, so I had to express myself with 'sign language'. When we managed to check in we went to the room and it was a big shock. It looked like that the latest cleaning was done 1 year ago. At least the bed and pillows were a bit cleaner. As we didn't had any intention to spend many time in the hotel, we didn't made a big point of it. (yet)
We left the hotel and started to walk a bit around. In front of the hotel there was a clock tower, which we could use as a 'reference' when we got lost. We took a picture of it and believe me, it was a very wise decision. As there is a language barrier, it is easy to show this picture and ask with 'sign language' the way to this place. Next to the hotel there was a Turkish restaurant where we asked for the good spots of the area. They advised us to go to the citadel area. We took a taxi and went to that area. We stepped out on a square close to a big mosque, the Zekeriya mosque. Between this mosque and the citadel, there was a 'souq' an old market.
When entering the souq, we looked from a gate to the courtyard of the Zekeriya mosque
In Arabic counties, negotiating is a funny game. You have to you it everywhere. When I start, I always offer 1/4 th of the initial price and most of the time you get an agreement somewhere in the middle. Another culture here is that marketers are extremely insisting to invite you, offer a drink and try to push you to buy something.
Fun fact: what is the most sold product in Syria?
Answer: Naughty lingerie.
However most of the women in this country are veiled, sexy underwear is one of the most sold product. It seems that Syrians has a collerful life in their bedrooms :-) 75% of the shops/stalls sells these kind of products. You can not imagine what kind of different types the offer. There were knickers with flashing fairy lights, others that glow in the dark, a bra-and-knickers set shaped like manicured women's hands enveloping the wearer's crotch and breasts
In a slightly higher price range, there were remote-controlled bras and knickers, designed to spring open and fall to the floor with a clap of the hands or a press of a button.
Welcome to the no-frills world of Syrian lingerie - no frills, but plenty of tassels, and feathers, and zips, and bras which open like curtains, and...
Anyway, back to the trip :-) Beside of this fancy product there were lot of stalls where they sold Arab soap, gold and some handcrafts.
When we survived the insisting sellers from the souq and slowly arrived to the area of the citadel.
The Citadel of Aleppo Is one of the strongest castles of the world. It has been built on a hill in the middle of the city. It protrudes 50 meters above the city and it is surrounded by a pit which is 20 meter deep and 30 meter wide. (used to be with crocodiles.) One of the hallmarks of the castle is the big gate which is reachable via a bridge.
The most interesting seeing inside are the arms room, throne room and the Byzantine room
We walked around the castle. On the front side of the castle, there are nice bars and restaurants. As we were quite tired and thirsty, we took a nice bar and enjoyed of the panoramic view of the citadel area. Slowly the daylight disappears and the citadel is colorfully lighted. It changes the whole view of the area.
As the evening started, it was also time for dinner. To avoid that we will get some poisoning, we looked to a restaurant which was 'radiating' quality. We found one close to the Zekeriya mosque. We noticed that we were not the only tourists here, so at the first sight, it looked fine. Again we were facing a language issue. No English menu and non English speaking staff. But one of the waiters could speak a bit Turkish, who was helpful to translate the menu. Beside tourists, there were also local people at the restaurant. I really felt sorry for the women here who were veiled. It is nearly mission impossible to eat outside and have the full face covered. Aleppo is only 60 km from the Turkish border but the difference is enormous. The woman are here veiled in different categories. some of them, you can see the face, others only the eyes
The diner was quite nice and the view we had from the terrace was pleasant. When we finished the dinner we decided to walk to the hotel instead of taking the taxi. Fhirst we spent some time on a square in front of the Zekeria mosque. There were some street artists which kind you don't see for sure in Western Europe.
Slowly but sure we felt that it is time to go to the hotel and have a rest. We walked to the streets. Watched the 'great fashion' in the windows of the shops and finally arrived to our very nice hotel. We were so tired that we wanted to sleep immediately. One issue which we overlooked. Our room was watching to one of the most busy streets of the city. The whole night we were listening to the sounds of the cars, horns and fighting drivers. On a certain moment we closed the door but even it is October, it is quite hot in Syria. On one of the corners of the room there was a ventilator. When I turned it on, there came a lot of dust out of it, like it was not used (and) cleaned for years.....
Very sleepy and tired we woke up when it was nearly afternoon
The terminal was easy to find and directly drivers were insisting to bring you to Turkey. There was one driver who gave me a honest impression and he was not insisting as the others, so I approached him and asked what his rate was for bringing us to Turkey. He offered me that for 100 Turkish Lira he will bring me to anywhere in Gaziantep and help us to find a good hotel and if he (or we) could find in the meantime other persons going to the same direction, that we could go together and share the costs. The price was fine by us and closed the deal. Before we were going to leave we wanted to have a walk trough the souqs and citadel area, for buying souvenirs
Aleppo's Arabic name, Halab, is of ancient Semitic origin and is first mentioned in texts at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. In the 18th century BC Halab was the capital of the Amorite kingdom of Yamkhad, and it subsequently came under Hittite, Egyptian, Mitannian, and again Hittite rule during the 17th–14th century. In succeeding centuries it achieved some independence as a Hittite principality and remained under Hittite control until around 800 BC.
Halab then passed through the hands of the Assyrians (8th century BC) and the Persians (6th-4th century BC) before being captured by the Greeks in 333 BC. Seleucus Nicator, a general of Alexander the Great, renamed the settlement Beroea
The city was absorbed into the Roman province of Syria in 64 BC. It prospered under Byzantine rule, during which it was a center of Christianity. A great cathedral was built during this period and became a mosque in 1124 (it still stands within the citadel).
Aleppo was pillaged and burned by the Persian Sasanian king Khosrow I in AD 540 and in 637 the city was conquered by the Arabs, under whom it reverted to its old name, Halab. In the 10th century a resurgent Byzantine Empire briefly regained control from 974 to 987.
The city was twice besieged by Crusaders, in 1098 and in 1124, but was not conquered. It came under the control of Saladin and then the Ayyubid Dynasty from 1183 and remained in Arab hands until taken by the Mongols in 1260. It returned to native control in 1317 decades after the Battle of Ain Jalut. On August 9, 1138 a deadly earthquake ravaged the city and the surrounding area. Although estimates from this time are very unreliable, it was estimated that 230,000 people had died, making it the fourth deadliest earthquake in recorded history.
The city became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517, when the city had around 50,000 inhabitants, and remained Ottoman until the empire's collapse. It was occasionally rife with internal feuds as well as attacks of the plague and later cholera from 1823. By 1901 its population was around 125,000. The city revived when it came under French colonial rule but slumped again following the decision to give Antioch to Turkey in 1938-1939.
Aleppo was named by the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) as the capital of Islamic culture in 2006.