Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Aleppo, Syria

Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:03am EDT
 
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters Life!) - Architectural gems spanning a sweep of human history hide behind nondescript doors in Syria's second city. Understated carpets are prized by collectors and the cuisine incorporates ancient influences from as far away as China.

Subtlety is the hallmark of Aleppo, one of the world's richest historical sites whose inhabitants possess a quiet pride and a cosmopolitan culture that has survived Mongol destruction and steady economic decline.

The city, built around a vast medieval citadel, was wrapped in obscurity for decades by Soviet-style policies which undermined its business classes and the city's reputation as a culinary capital of the Middle East.

But the trading hub of Silk Road fame has been witnessing a renaissance lately, driven by economic liberalization and an opening toward Turkey, Aleppo's neighbor to the north.

Tasteful hotels and restaurants are opening up in and around the once-walled city, itself built on layers of much older ruins. Medieval districts have been renovated with the help of the Agha Khan, and other international organizations working to save the United Nations World Heritage Site.

Reuters correspondents help visitors to get the most of out of a 48-hour visit.

FRIDAY

3 p.m. To appreciate the task ahead, take a drink at the rooftop bar and restaurant of Mirage hotel (www.miragepalace.net), which offers unobstructed views, with the citadel smack in the middle, and the expanse of roads and construction that destroyed one fifth of Old Aleppo.   Continued...

 
<p>People visit the Grand Mosque of the Syrian city of Aleppo June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri</p>