Homage to Syria: ALEPPO CITADEL (4)

Homage to Syria: ALEPPO CITADEL (4)

*Was fortunate enough to travel to Syria and see the country in 2008, three years before the war broke out. This is the reminder, the story about the country with immense cultural heritage, posted here with the wholehearted wish for peace to be restored and cities to be rebuilt.

Aleppo is the city in the northern part of Syria, and besides Damascus it is one of the oldest settlements in the world. Before the war, it was the town full of tradition and monuments that exuded history. This city was the capital of the mighty Yamkhad kingdom until the 1780 BC when it fell under Hittites’ control. And it continued to be the target for various other conquerors throughout history.


Surroundings of the Citadel

In the 4th century BC the town was called Beroia. The first city plan was made back then, the one that could be recognized before the war east of the Antioch Gate. This town was extremely important for Greeks and Romans, followed later by Arab and Muslim invaders. Meanwhile, Aleppo developed into one huge trading center and the town where pilgrims on the way to Mecca usually took a break.


The main entrance into the fort

Thus, it is deservedly referred to as – the Gate of Asia!

The 10th-century Citadel

When the town flourished in the 10th century AD, the original plan of the famous Citadel came into being, the structure Aleppo was known for worldwide. This fortress was described as „the most spectacular medieval structure in the Middle East“ and it was still proudly standing before the recent war, defying ravages of time.


Passing through into the courtyard

The Citadel is located on the 55-meter hill, dominating its surroundings, imposing in size. Because of the specific position, it was considered to be a threat to town authorities since it was separated, enough to have its own government, and yet, it was still in the center of the town. Hence, it was under constant supervision. At one point the fortress even had its own governor who answered to the authorities of the city.


This is where the Mosque and the Royal Palace once stood

There were numerous traces of religious and civil monuments in the Citadel which were unfortunately vastly destroyed by the earthquake in 1822. (Nowadays, they are seriously damaged.)

But the remains of the old public bathroom from the 11th century could still be found before the war, along with traces of the Grand Mosque founded by the Umayyads, and the Royal Palace.


Ancient steps inside the fortress

Fortress for 10,000 people

The first thing that struck me when approaching the fortress was by far the deep trench that surrounded it, separating it from the rest of the city. There was the long medieval bridge which was once the only way to get into the fort, followed by the huge iron gates.

The trench was dug out during the Ayyubids rule and, even though the town got seriously damaged by the Mongols in 1260, it soon rose up again.


Deep trench surrounding the Citadel

The fortress could receive about 10,000 people and it was fully supplied with all the things inhabitants might need on daily basis.

The construction that was visible before the war in Aleppo actually got its appearance at the beginning of the 13th century and it was built onto the ruins of the early Byzantine fort.


Passage towards the tower

The unconquerable walls

In order for invaders to reach the premises of the fort’s governor they were supposed to go through the lateral gate where no tools could be used for breaking down the door because of its position. If by any chance they would succeed to go through the gate on the bridge and would try to break in, boiling oil and stones were thrown at them from fort’s walls. Even if they were to overcome this obstacle, they were still supposed to follow the narrow corridor one by one where they would come across men with sabers.


Tower of the Citadel

Besides these rich and unconquerable premises, the fortress has housed bathrooms, the mosque, markets etc. Once I found myself here, I have just tried to imagine what the town was like back then – on the hill, heavily fortified, completely safe, fully supplied.

I touched its walls and could feel that I was standing on the very spot where the capital of the mighty kingdom stood 4,000 years ago!


Great view of the city before the war

When I climbed up to the Citadel, I took a walk around the fort and gazed at the town below. That is when I felt the power of the place, being aware of the strategic importance of the fort’s position, since down there, look – there was the whole of Aleppo, the whole town on the palm of my hand!


The full Homage to Syria SERIES


52 comments on “Homage to Syria: ALEPPO CITADEL (4)

  1. A beautiful place with so much history. I don’t even know what to say about the war, everything I think of seems trite or not serious enough. It’s just awful that a beautiful place and people have been destroyed.

    1. That was the genuine idea, to remember the country’s heritage and history, since we only know it now in regards to war, politics and terrorism. But Syria is so much more than that.

  2. It is heartbreaking to see what the people of Syria are having to live through, awful and terrifying. I had hoped to visit, we did a wonderful trip to Lebanon several years ago and my plan was to visit Syria next but I left it too late and must now hope that they can come through this horrific time. Of course, when they do it will be after such immense loss, of people, of their cultural heritage, of their infrastructure. I’m just so angry and sad for Syria.

  3. This place really is a spectacular medieval town. It’s really sad people succeed in destroying these ancient structures and ruïning so many lives… Loved reading this post!

    1. Not sure if the Citadel is seriously damaged or not, I only know that Aleppo is constantly under the immense fire. Hopefully it still stands, it has already endured so much! Thank you, Inge. 🙂

  4. Great post about Aleppo. The history and heritage of the place are something we should preserve. But what is happening nowadays is totally opposite to this. Let’s hope that peace is restored in Aleppo and once trade and tourism flourish in this region.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I always wanted to visit Syria and it makes me incredibly sad that all this is almost gone now and that I didn’t get the chance to travel before the war. Hoping that the situation is resolved as soon as possible and that this beautiful country and its people can recover their daily lives and heritage

  6. Great insight to Syria. I just wish the war ends so I can get out there to check it out. Great photos, I am missing so muchj 🙁

  7. What a lovely city it used to be; this was a really interesting article. It will never be the same again which is heartbreaking for its people. The situation there is terrible and I hope it will be peaceful again soon.

  8. It’s such a shame about what has happened to Aleppo and Syria. That is amazing that you were able to see it before it became war torn to see the rich history. Hopefully the region returns to a peaceful state in the future.

    1. To tell you the truth, I often think about that journey, since Syria is all over the news for six years now. And always feel so grateful and fortunate for seeing it. Thanks, guys.

  9. I’ve recently been reading a book about a French monk spending time in Syria, and when he left it, people kept asking abou it, is it beautiful. And he always said yes. It’s a shame this land will be off-limits for ages.

  10. The place has a great history and cultural heritage. It’s a great disappointment that war has done to Syria. I don’t understand why can’t we have a peaceful world!

  11. This is a very timely reminder that Syrians were once the same as the rest of us – living in a country rich with history and its achievements. Of course, teir personal losses must overshadow everything else, but this is a timely reminder of just how abnormal war really should be.

  12. Thank you for this lovely post on Syria. I really enjoyed learning more about the history, the beauty and how special a place it was/is. So sad events have gone the way they have.

  13. So devastating what war does to a country. I suppose there is not much of these historical landmarks left now after all the bombing & destruction. I hope that one day soon war will be over and that the people of Syria can rebuild what is left of their lives

    1. That’s the most important thing – to end the war. I do believe that Syrians would be able to take it from there, one step at the time. So many horrifying years they’ve had, such a shame..

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