Aleppo (Halab in Arabic) has a rich five thousand-year history of vibrant communities cultivated on its soil. Alexander the Great in 333 BC, bishops during the first three hundred years of Christianity, and governors of the Persian Period called this city home. Aleppo was, in fact, the third largest city in the Ottoman Empire.
In the current century, tourists have visitedthe Soukwith its exotic smells and covered streets, climbed through the ancientSaint Simon Citadel, and gazed on theGreat Mosquewith its towering minarets. The city, vying with Damascus for the title of “largest in Syria,” was inhabited by families who traced their ancestry back hundreds of years. Most of them were Sunni Muslims, though Christians from the ancient church also called Aleppo home.
How Did It Come to This?
All that changed in 2012. That’s when the fighting that began in the wake of the Arab Spring finally reached the city. It’s inhabitants havefled en massevia Europe, Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan to various countries offering respite from the violence ever since. Before-and-after pictures depicting the destruction of the historic city flood television screens and expose the world to villas in ruins, crumbling office buildings, and bloodied faces of children pulled from rubble. Those images are the new reality that has brought the ancient city to her knees.