After spending 3 great days in Damascus was it time to travel north to Aleppo, driving along the world´s most dangerous road, the Salamiyah – Ithriya – Khanasser Road, notorious for being attacked by Daesh (ISIS) and Al Qaeda, and getting shut down for days.
And yes Daesh (ISIS) attacked the road the same day I travel it as well, less than 1hour after I passed by it.
The road between the two biggest cities in Syria used to take only 5 hours to drive, however, these days it will take you between 7 to 9 hours.
Mostly because of the detour you have to take along Salamiyah – Ithriya – Khanasser road (The highway is off limits since it goes through deep Al Qaeda land), and there a few compulsory military checkpoints with friendly soldiers who do papers checks. This rarely takes more than a minute or two.
When you finally reach Aleppo, you will go through the broken parts of East Aleppo, the places where some of the most fierce battles in the war happened.
There are three sides to every story: yours, theirs, and the truth somewhere in the middle.
But it doesn’t take long before you notice that only a small part of Aleppo is destroyed, as soon as you reach central Aleppo, the city is bustling with life, just like Damascus. So too are the shops, restaurants, supermarkets, and parks filled with people.
Here´s a short video from my trip around Syria, filmed with my GoPro.
Yes, There´s a lot of destruction in Aleppo, especially the historical old part of town with the Souq (market) and surrounding areas are mostly destroyed, but rebuilding has already started.
But there’s far less destruction in Aleppo than what the media has been telling us, only about 20% of Aleppo is destroyed or damaged. The city center is mostly unharmed.
The university is open together with 913! schools, the local trains are running and there´s seven public transportation routes around the city.
As a foreigner in Aleppo, you may think that big parts of the city were off limits? Not at all! I was granted full access to inside the Aleppo Citadel, to walk around the old Souq, visit the devastating remains of the historic Umayyad Mosque, and to visit East Aleppo.
I was even allowed to visit a school that Desh (ISIS) and Al Qaeda used as headquarters.
I was never told that I could not visit an area, or even told that I wasn’t allowed to take photos!
Before the war in the Old City of Aleppo is one of the highlights of every trip to Syria, it was even added to the UNESCO world heritage list all the way back in 1986!
From the UNESCO website:
Located at the crossroads of several trade routes from the 2nd millennium B.C., Aleppo was ruled successively by the Hittites, Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols, Mamelukes and Ottomans. The 13th-century citadel, 12th-century Great Mosque and various 17th-century madrasas, palaces, caravanserais and hammams all form part of the city’s cohesive.
It´s heartbreaking to walk around the Old City of Aleppo and see all the destruction that happens here. But where´there´s sorrow, there´s hope.
A few shopkeepers in the old Souq are working every day and night to rebuild (in the original style) and reopen their shops and there´s stonemasons working at the entrance of Aleppo Citadel, the jewel of the Middle East.
The Remains of The Old Souq.
Umayyad Mosque, The Great Mosque Of Aleppo.
The Umayyad Mosque was the largest and oldest mosque in Aleppo, it dated back to year 715 and was one of the most beautiful mosques in the world especially because its minaret was considered to be a national treasure, but unfortunately, it was blown up in on 24 April 2013 by Al Nusra (Al Queada).
The whole mosque is now planned to be rebuilt and restored to its former glory.
The Citadel was a proud treasure for the whole of the Middle East before the war. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.
It has been used by and survived through many of the greatest civilizations in history, from the Greeks, Romans, Mongolians to the Ottomans and it´s still standing now after the war.
It´s badly dammed inside but restoration has already started. And it shouldn’t take many years before its back to its former glory and open once again to hoards of tourists.
I was granted full access to inside the citadel.
Aleppo Citadel from the western side.
Daily Life In Aleppo Ala 2017.
The daily life in Aleppo these days is very normal once again after the government regained control over the city. While walking around central Aleppo will you wonder if there ever was a war happening here.
Couples are out shopping and enjoying a shisha in public, young girls are dancing in the parks.
During Syria´s national football time, everyone gathers to watch it. I watched the football game between Syria and Australia at a public watching inside a basketball court.
The most destruction is located in this area, but even here have rebuilding begun, and we all remember reading about the last school that got bombed? It looks like a normal school, to walk down to the basement and see ISIS flags.
So do you still think Aleppo is a city in ruins? I have some hundred more photos from my visit to the city, and I will be posting more photos in the near future. I will also include the photos from the children’s school that was used by Daesh (Isis) and Al Queada as headquarters in a general post about my visit to Syria soon.
After 3 eyeopening days in Aleppo was it time to head back down to central Syria and Homs.