* Was fortunate enough to travel to Syria and see the country in 2008 (when the original article was written), three years before the actual war broke out. This is a reminder, a story about the country with immense cultural heritage, posted here with wholehearted wish for peace to be restored.
During the rule of the sultan Nur al Din the great bazaar was reconstructed in Aleppo, the market this town is widely known for. This is the covered Oriental souk where people began to trade, buy and sell goods in a manner you will come across even now, so many centuries later.
Spices, perfumes, textile, silk, carpets, jewelry, they all remain almost the same and while walking by those lined up stalls and shops you begin to feel as if coming out of the time-machine!
Every merchant will try to make you stop right by his stall, regardless to the goods he sells, being pistachios or gold. There were few of them not that „interested“, who were relaxing on the top of the pile of sacks or dozing behind their counters.
But prepare yourself for deafening noise, merchants who loudly advertise their goods and call buyers to come closer, haggling all around. Only by the tone of the voice you hear behind, you actually suspect that someone is trying to warn you about some bike coming straight at you or a full cart man is trying to push through this 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 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 you, even if it turned out that you have bought a traditional remedy „for male impotence“ while being – a female!
The deeper you go into the souk, the narrower those passages become, there is less day light coming through. Among those further sections there is one that „specializes“ in meat. It is 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, just have in mind that the exit is not that far where ever you turn to and that you will come out to the Citadel surroundings at the end. There is no way to get lost that easily.
Drinking fountain at every corner
Aleppo is not just the town of the old souk and an ancient fortress, it actually has a modern district as well where you will come across those flashy stores as anywhere else in the world. This is where Syrians come for a walk in the evenings. But, you will have to notice that there are a lot of parts of Aleppo which are just neglected and ruined. One of the streets I went through was full of old charming buildings. There might have been some of the French influence and design there, but also a lot of details typical for Arabic and Oriental style. But, these constructions were just decrepit, looking like they will fall down right than and there, in front of your eyes.
That does not stop people who live here to use what is left of the facilities. People just adapt to various circumstances, as they do anywhere else in the world. And so we were greeted by one cute, smiling boy who was sitting at his ruined terrace without any fence towards the street. It seemed he was chilling, cooling down.
Heavy traffic, vivid town, half of the population was driving one of those small colorful trucks. If you get thirsty, there are drinking fountains at every corner.
Well, they are actually somewhat improvised taps with tin pots chained to them. But if you are not that thirsty, bottled water is always an option and easy to find in any store on the way.
One more thing you will notice in Aleppo – people are genuinely pleasant and they spend a lot of time outside. They just bring out a chair or two, sit on the curb and chat. People from nearby stores were hanging 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 for them as much as their abayas were for me.
In various cafes (alcohol free) there are nicely dressed young men and women, chatting and having coffee and narghile. You will find that guy selling coffee on the street, just like in Damascus. There is a 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, over and over again!