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Aleppo, Syria

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.

Paved street in the Citadel and Mosque of Abraham (pbuh)

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 Citadel, Aleppo

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 and baths. 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.

Courtyard of The Great Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo

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 standing.

The Archaeological 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.

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