Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Photo Nostalgia - Syria, Part 1: Aleppo

In 2007, I trekked from Greece to Egypt... by land. This required going through Syria (via Turkey), at a time when Americans were advised against going there. Here's Part 1 of my Photo Nostalgia series on the country.
Bashar al-Assad welcomes you at the Turkish border (Bab al-Hawa) to the Syrian Arab Republic...

...where a proper queue up isn't de rigeur.

After clearing customs (which at first handed my passport back to the one other white guy), I was officially in, baby!

But our Turkish bus wouldn't be taking us very far. I was right above the wheel well when this bad boy exploded; forgive the stereotype of the Middle East if I say it felt like a landmine.

Turkish enginuity, right there... and of course it didn't work (those are brittle sandstone rocks which crumbled shortly thereafter).

Kids from the border village came out to see our predicament... I tried some basic Arabic phrases, which they replied to enthusiastically (don't let their stoic faces fool you - that's a typical photo pose).

We eventually caught another bus that took us into Aleppo, Syria's second largest city. Here's the Citadel of Aleppo, dominating the city.

Syria was my first Arab country, but wouldn't be my last. That's more than I can say for this photo, which I'm a bit embarrassed about taking - it WOULD be my last in the Mid East.

Citadel of Aleppo

My two Pakistani-American acquaintances enter the Citadel.

The Citadel is one of the oldest castles in the world, although it's been restored several times in its history.

Our newfound friend showed us around (name withheld, just in case).

Citadel interior

View over Aleppo (not the most photogenic of cities, but with plenty of attractions all the same)

My friend enjoys his waterpipe in the shade of the citadel's interior.

One of the many parts of Aleppo's famous souq, the world's largest.

Now THAT'S fresh.

Great Mosque of Aleppo, dating from the 13th century and believed by Muslims to house the remains of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist (both revered as prophets in Islam).

Great Mosque

Interior of Great Mosque

A lot of cute kids wanted to get to know the Westerner. Their parents even invited me to coffee if I came to their city (the mosque was a pilgrimage destination within Syria).

Mihrab and minbar inside the Great Mosque

It's obviously a huge mosque.

More kids inside the mosque.

Not sure which street this was, but it was a bustling one even for Aleppo.

Bab al-Faraj, a clocktower that's a local landmark.

National Museum, Aleppo

I believe this was Hittite artwork, but I honestly have no clue (I don't remember good signs in the museum, unlike in Damascus... I might be very mistaken, however).

This is my handle, this is my spout...

A model of Aleppo, with the scope of the Citadel plain to see.

Horse beneath the ruins of the Church of St. Simeon Stylites (aka Deir Semaan), about 22 miles outside of Aleppo (and well worth the cab ride).

Deir Semaan

The cab driver that took us had never been here before, and even he was impressed. The size of the original basilica was nearly as large as Haghia Sophia in Istanbul. The rock at the center of the photo is all that remains of St. Simeon's 15 meter high pillar, due to centuries of relic taking.

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