Destinations Magazine

The Souk of Aleppo

By Ninstravelog @ninstravelog

As a normal woman, I love shopping, from grocery shopping in Carrefour Supermarket, to a fancy boutique to try on expensive new clothes by having the shop assistant helping me choose the right dress. My husband is just the same. He loves shopping and as a matter of fact I think he is the best shopper I know.

The entrance to the Grand Souk of Aleppo from the citadel

The entrance to the Grand Souk of Aleppo from the Citadel

As I live in the Middle East, I have the privilege of experiencing the Souk; a bazaar where people exchange goods over a friendly conversation. I love visiting the souk, the traditional ones  are more fascinating than the modern ones. However, my visit to the Grand Souk of Aleppo two years ago was like no other. It was memorable; I had to opt out of joining our tour bus to go back to the hotel, just to explore the souk slowly and do as Lonely Planet suggested to: “get lost in Aleppo souk”. I even had to go back the next day just to feel the warmth from the shop keepers, the slow moving activity along the grand corridor of souk Al-Attarine.  There’s no hustle and bustle of a real busy market; yet everything they sell and the decoration between shops are forever intricate and fascinating. Once I was outside the covered bazaar, the atmosphere changed 180 degrees, the vibrancy of a real market was there; not so intricate, but yet it was equally interesting.

Corridor of Al Madina Souk (covered bazaar) of Aleppo with it's cloister-vault ceiling from the Medieval period

Corridor of Al Madina Souk (covered bazaar) of Aleppo with it’s cloister-vault ceiling from the Medieval period

Compared to Al Hamadiyyah Souk in Damascus, where the main corridor is wide, Aleppo Souk had narrower alleyways, yet it was more interesting than the one in Damascus. First developed in the 13th century, but most of it was built during the heyday of the Ottoman Empire between 15th and 17th century. Each different alleyway reflects different ornaments and architecture finishes of the corridor’s facade. But what fascinated me most was the different ceilings types and its illumination system along each corridor, from an opening to the dome shaped ceiling to let in natural light to fancy lighting pendants that represent the traditional Middle Eastern lights.

Souk Al Atmah with different finishes to the previous souk, as well as different theme of what they are selling along the corridor.

Souk Al Atmah with different finishes to the previous souk, as well as different theme of what they are selling along the corridor.

Souk al-Shouneh, built in 1546. Currently functions as a market for trades and traditional handicrafts of Aleppine art.

Souk al-Shouneh, built in 1546. Currently functions as a market for trades and traditional handicrafts of Aleppine art.

Main entrance of the souk, directly looking at the best copper ornament in the region, with fascinating ceiling as well as corridor's decoration

Main entrance of the souk, directly looking at the best copper ornament in the region, with fascinating ceiling as well as corridor’s decoration

The fact that Aleppo has been shelled, shattered, destroyed, and left in ruins many times in the past; during the Byzantines and the Mongol period; I am sure that once the current war is over, Aleppo will rebuild again. But what was once the greatest bazaar of the Medieval period, and the finest in the Middle East is now gone, burnt to ashes.

The Souk of Aleppo
Antique shop specialising of copper ware from the medieval era
The Souk of Aleppo
Fine fabrics and antiques from the region
The Souk of Aleppo
Favorite Arabian delicacies to my husband: various nuts.

Of course, there’s this term “restoration”, or even for the sake of tourism, there is “re-creation, which could be better than nothing, but the memory and history of the place will be forever different. And it is a fact as Kevin Rushby said: “the world’s greatest treasures has been lost”.

Today: Inside the Aleppo Souk where fierce fighting is going on between the FSA and the government Photo: Will Wintercross for the Telegraph

Today:
Inside the Aleppo Souk where fierce fighting is going on between the FSA and the government Photo: Will Wintercross for the Telegraph

I didn’t manage to explore the Souk as much as I wanted to, but I feel very lucky that I still managed to witness and to record with my camera a little bit on how it was during the early 21st century’s finest glory days.

If you are interested in my other posts about Syria, check out: I’ve been to SYRIA

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