The clock tower marks the centre of Aleppo where a big Sheraton hotel is under construction.
Even if the Sheraton had been finished, I wouldn't have stayed there because that type of hotel is too expensive but also because I prefer small hotels where the local people stay and where it is easy to make acquaintance with them.
In Aleppo, I had a small but clean room with bath at the Zahret Al-Rabih for only 5.50 $US 20 metres down this street (Sharia ad-Dala). It was well located near local restaurants, halfway between the Clock Tower and the National Museum and not far from the souk and the citadel.
I started my visit of Aleppo with the souk, getting there by the most direct route through the small alleys shown below. The minaret is that of Al-Bahramiyya Mosque located in souk Bab Antakya.
Vaulted and domed roofs protect from the burning sun in summer but heat was not a problem when I passed there in February 2003, just before the Iraq war.
Porters with their barrows and donkeys chew the fat while they wait for customers at this intersection of two vaulted streets.
I spent hours in the souk chatting with the merchants about their business. These two young men, standing at the entrance of Khan Al-Wazir, were particularly nice, calling me uncle, showing me around and introducing me to their relatives in the souk. It took me a while to realise that they were not trying to sell me anything, but just being friendly helping me find a particular kind of tuque I was looking for.
There is really everything from jewellery to textiles to spices and food in the warren of streets and alleys that constitute the souk.
The souk is normally quite a tourist attraction but I did not meet any because of the impending war in Iraq.
People work, pray and live in the souk. On the right below, a boisterous group of school girls coming back home from school.
The Aleppo citadel is also a great tourist attraction. It was built in 1209 by Al-Malikal-Zahir Ghazi, the son of Saladin, over fortifications of Byzantine, Roman and earlier times. The citadel could accommodate a garrison of 10 000. It was stormed often but taken only by the Mongols in 1269 and by Tamerlane in 1400. The hill is largely man made, being constituted by a tumulus left by successive civilisations who settled here, beginning around 1600 BC, probably because of the strategic value of the site halfway between the Euphrates river and the Mediterranean coast.
This panorama was stitched together from three ordinary photographs. Entrance is by square tower up the ramp of the left.
Ramps like this one spiral up inside the tower making a full circle before opening at the top of the hill. Five heavy, iron plated doors prevent the passage of assailants while exposing them to the defendant's fire from above
The inside of the citadel is in ruins except for the great mosque up this street.
At the very top of the 12th century entrance tower is a lavishly restored Mamluk throne room reached through the two portals shown below.
Here is the elaborate roof of that throne room.
Immediately south of the citadel entrance is the Al-Khosrowiyya Mosque.
Three giant figures riding fantastic animals guard the entrance of the National Museum. They are replicas of pillars that once supported the ceiling of a 9th century BC Hittite temple-palace complex uncovered at Tel Halaf near Ras Al-Ain in the north.
The Jadaydad quarter, reserved for Christians by the Ottomans, lies Northeast of the Clock Tower. This is the Maronite Cathedral. There are also a large Greek Catholic church, an Armenian Cathedral and other smaller Christian places of worship.
To the left and below, street scenes in the Christian quarter.
Back in my quarter near the Clock Tower, here is one of the many tea houses where men gather to smoke the narghileh, chat, play dominoes and dream, safe from the kind attentions of their womenfolk.
This kind of place is also frequent in Turkey where I'm going next.