Always strong and ever vibrant, yet still healing. One of the jewel in the world has been broken. But because a city exists mainly through its people– its children near and far – are rebuilding it
Aleppo is more than the city you’ve seen in the news. This city defeats the odds of war…rising, rising, rising above. Aleppo lives. It still rises, no matter what. Lit up by the sparks of hope emanating through the cracks of its people’s hearts.
“We have a jasmine tree at home. And sometimes, I sit on the stairs next to it, close my eyes and pretend I never left. Pretend I'm still in Syria. I'm at my uncle's house. All the family is sitting in the garden outside. And I haven't left. I hear their laughter; I smell the jasmine. I haven't left.” @womanoftheorient
• Alep in French, Aleppo in English, حلب in Arabic, was first settled around 5000 BC
• Aleppians: Just over 2.1 million. Aleppo was once was Syria’s largest city, and now is the second largest. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world.
• Language: Mainly Arabic, the “Halabi” dialect. Some communities speak French, mostly elders or Christian families, as the nuns used to speak French to children in school. Armenian is widely spoken by the descendants of the Armenian genocide.
• National currency: The Syrian pound (lira)
The city of Aleppo spans centuries – for thousands and thousands of years it has thrived as the largest, most populous city of Syria. It is incredibly intricate and linked to those who built their histories here. Take its name, for example: The city of Aleppo has been called several names, from “Chalybon” to “Halboun” and “Beroia”, we call it “Halab” today in Arabic, more precisely “Halab Al Shahba”.
Being among this city is like weaving together a rich tapestry – if only we could easily see those who traveled and stayed here before our visit. From the Akkadians to the Greeks and Romans, Umayyads, Ayyubids, Persians, Hittites, Byzantines, Assyrians, Mameluks and Ottomans, Aleppo has seen and served countless civilizations. From each it absorbed customs and traditions that live to this day with evolutions, transformations and transgressions while keeping the spirit intact. Can you feel it?
Aleppo, like its famous spices, has always been a root of enchantment. Today Aleppo is multi-cultural and multi-religious and has always been known for coexisting while resisting a single definition. Like you, like us, Aleppo is complex. Curious. Beautiful and generous to those who take the time to share and respect its space and spirit.
Who is here? is a complicated question, and conjures another: Who is coming back? In the past and still today, most people living in Aleppo are Muslim, but many are Christian too and some Jewish. Culturally, most are Arab. But like its history, its culture is rich, woven, varied: there are also Syrian-Armenians, Kurds, Circassians and Assyrians in the city.
To this day, the history of Aleppo can be retraced simply by walking across the spellbinding fortified city and the architecture that it carries within. So let’s begin.
• Sabah Fakhri
If Aleppo had a king, it would be Sabah Fakhri. Born and raised in this city, this musician is as close to home as it gets – his entire musical education is from Aleppo. Many grew up listening to his lullabies and treated his songs as Aleppo’s anthems. He is famous for his mawwals, long introductions to a song that demand a strong voice…and Sabah Fakhri has it – he once sang for 10 hours straight! Sabah Fakhri is to Aleppo what Fairouz is to the Arab World…and you can catch a glimpse of his commanding presence and true-to-Aleppo talent here.
• Mayada Al Hennawy
Mayada Al-Hennawy is a singer renowned for her voice, songs and simplicity. You would often find her having dinner with fellow Aleppians in the city’s most modest restaurants. The Grand Mohamed Abdel Wahab discovered her at a young age and made her tour the Arab world almost exactly as the great Arab singers did during this time, all to learn, meet and greet with the greatest of the music industry. Her voice is moving, her sound is indelible, and throughout her career she worked with many excellent artists. Listen to Mayada.
• Mustafa Akkad
This famous Syrian-American film producer was born and raised in Aleppo. He left for the United States with only $200 in his pocket. But his spirit was strong, and he soon built himself up and became notorious in his field for producing the movie “The Message” / “Mohammed Messenger of God”, a film into which he poured immense work, meeting every kind of specialist he could to ensure the work kept as close to the truth as possible.
• Bassam Koussa
One of the most well-known actors from Syria, and his roots are in Aleppo. He has received wide recognition for his roles in shows like Bab Al 7ara, and he is also a part of the great Syrian Drama legacy. More recently, he has taken on roles including the Syrian-Lebanese movie “ma7bas” / “Solitaire” by the great producer Sophia Boutros.