Been reading about Aleppo in newspapers and watching video footage of the battle between the Syrian forces and the rebels backed by Turkey and Western forces. This reminds me of reading about Aleppo in William Dalrymple’s books and some other books I downloaded after reading Dalrymple (In Xanadu). I had this crazy idea of traveling to Aleppo, because out of all the ancient cities that I had read during the stay at home, Aleppo attracted me more than any.
I will open up my plan in the end of the post.
Aleppo is the second largest city in Syria. Geographically, it is situated close to the Syria – Turkey border. In ancient times, it was as important and strategic as Constantinople and Cairo as this city was almost in the end of the worlds most glorified and fabled trade passage, The Silk Route. According to historical resources, Aleppo has been continually inhabited from the 6th Millennium BC and has been mentioned often in the cuneiform tablets excavated from Mesopotamia and Ebla.
However, during the beginning of the modern age, Aleppo lost its importance as an important cultural heritage and trade center as border disputes erupted and partly because of the inauguration of the Suez Canal. The trade route ceased to exist and much of Aleppo was given to Turkey. Furthermore, Aleppo lost its access to the Mediterranean because parts of Antioch and Alexandretta were given to Turkey. The political regime that came in Syria wasn’t very helpful either for its development as the government chose isolation from international and trade matters to make its internal stability as the first priority. Dalrymple notices that perhaps this might have helped preserving Aleppo from the monstrous developments that happened in other ancient cities in the Levant. Aleppo, for him, fits the description of the ancient city that traveler’s described ages ago when the Silk Route was intact and the trade flourished. Apparently, there are some inner parts of the city which hasn’t developed at all for a long time with its medieval architecture and traditional heritage remaining undamaged.
I know, if you don’t like history, you might be dozing off or mousing to click the ‘back’ (<-) button.
There are times when I have sat and thought about this old city. Old cities are a weakness of mine as I often like to visit them. I myself coming from an old city in India, my passion for anything historical remains unscathed even after everything was undone by the English Department here in UoH. I remember making plans months ago to go for a trip from Alappey (Alappuzha) to Aleppo, making a travel/photography book. For certain things, Alappuzha is almost as important as Aleppo in World History. Though these two cities were enjoying its prime being the jewels in two different trade routes, their political identity and future seemed different. Alappuzha was one of the main ports in India in the ancient times for exporting spices in to the Western world. Ancient Greece and Rome had trade contacts with Alappuzha during the Middle Ages and Arabs flourished in trading with Alappuzha and other ports in the Western Coast of India. It was also one of the first cities in the world in which Christianity flourished, in the first century AD itself when St. Thomas himself landed at the Muziris port not far from Alappuzha in 52 AD. Long conflicts with the West followed with trade alliances forming between the Portuguese, the Dutch and finally the English.
I thought it’d be fun to make a journey between these two old cities, trying to make a connection, mixing some history and taking some photographs. Yeah, it’s an expensive dream but probably a good one. Now that the situation got worse in Aleppo, I can’t say how long I have to wait to make this happen. I wish the people of Aleppo well.
The news coming from Aleppo isn’t good. The town is destroyed mostly by the assault from the Syrian Army and President Assad is threatening to use Chemical weapons to eliminate forces from Aleppo. The Mediterranean is swarming with the naval forces of the U.S, U.K and France as well as of Russia and China as they vetoed any action against Aleppo in the Security Council. If reports are to be believed, more than two hundred thousands of people have fled the town.
I hope everything settles down quickly. No one wins a war.
- Syrian Troops, Rebels Clash in Aleppo (voanews.com)
- Syria vows to rout rebels in Aleppo (thehindu.com)
- Many thousands flee Aleppo battle (bbc.co.uk)
- Syrian Regime Claims Gains in Aleppo (abcnews.go.com)
- Brief History of Aleppo: A Great World City Now in the Grip of War (world.time.com)
- 200,000 Syrian refugees flee Aleppo (newstalk.ie)
- Syria army overruns part of rebel bastion in Aleppo: source (dailystar.com.lb)
- BBC News – No let-up in Aleppo battle as Syria vows to crush rebels (incaunipocrit.wordpress.com)
- Syrian civil war’s lynchpin: Aleppo (cbsnews.com)