The Silk Maritime Roads and Aleppo's Significance

Aleppo is one of the oldest continually inhabited urban cities in the world. Aleppo’s famous Bazar, teeming with over 1,000 stalls extending over 13 km long is one of the world’s largest covered bazars. It has been the core of the city’s economic and social life for hundreds of years. Like similar bazars of Bukhara or Isfahan and other major cities along the Silk Roads, each section of the Aleppo’s Bazar, bears the name of trades or products such as the Cooper Souq or Wool Souq. Aleppo’s Bazar was extended in the 16th century under Ottoman rulers.  

Aleppo became a major regional cultural centre by 8th century under Abbasid rule. The diverse mixture of buildings reflects Aleppo’s important role in the promotion  of knowledge over the last twelve centuries. For example, the Great Mosque constructed under the Umayyads and rebuilt in the 12th century, a unique combination of Byzantine and Islamic architecture and art, served as a major centre for religious education for centuries. Other noteworthy centres of learning include the 12th Century Madrasa of Halawiye, which incorporates remains of Aleppo's Christian cathedral, and the Madrasah of al-Firdows, constructed by Daifa Khatoun in 1235 and Saint George's Cathedral. The Iranian philosopher, Shahab ad-Din Sohrawardi also known as the Shaykh-e Ishragh, is among the many scholars who fell in love with the city.

The monumental Citadel of Aleppo built on the site of the former Roman acropolis within the old walled city overlooking the Bazar and mosques and madrasas, reminds us of the strategic importance of Aleppo for Arab rulers in the Golden Age of the Silk Roads.

The remains of Aleppo’s Citadel nicely illustrate components of different cultures that have forged the city’s identity. This military fortification complex was constructed after victory of the Islamic leader Salah El-Din on the Crusaders and reinforced later in the 13th and 14th centuries with great towers and the stone entry bridge. Together with its surrounding moat as well as defensive wall above a massive sloping stone-faced glacis and the great gateway, the citadel has come down to us as a remarkable example of military architecture at the height of Arab dominance. The famous Muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta who traveled along the Silk Roads in the mid-14th century immortalised Aleppo’s Citadel in his diaries.

The memory of this history however, is becoming just that. The city and bazaar has not been spared from the fighting, hundreds of stalls and their owners lost their lives in a fire in 2012, during a battle for control of the city. The Citadel has also been effected, suffering mass damage to the infrastructure.