Of all the countries I have travelled thus far, Syria was the country that my family and friends were most concerned for my safety. In 2010, my solo backpacking trip was flying into Athens, island-hopping amongst the beautiful islands in Greece, taking a boat from the Greek Island, Kos to Bodrum, the beautiful seaside resort of Turkey and onwards to some parts of Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. I will blog about Greece, Turkey and Lebanon in a separate blog and dedicate this one wholly to Syria.
Unfortunately, Syria is off-limits to tourists due to her escalating problems with civil wars and ISIS. I am so grateful that I was able to visit this land when there was peace and the Syrians were happy and friendly.
Why do I like Syria so much, you may ask? It’s because her people are one of the most kindest, helpful, giving and honest humans I have the privilege to know. From the onset of my journey which is a bus ride from Antioch, Turkey to Aleppo, 2 Syrian fellow passengers gave me instructions on how to ride the local transport. The hostel which I wanted to stay was full and the staff, a handsome young man, took me to a few other hostels until I found the one that I wish to stay. I knew then that I would be in good hands wherever I go in this land.
Since travellers are not advised to visit Syria due to the tense situation, I wish to write about the goodness of the Syrians and their generosity of heart.
After checking into my guesthouse and receiving instructions on how to get to the tourist attractions, I set off to see first and foremost the No. 1 must-see attraction in Aleppo, the Citadel. It was built in the 12th century and has a large bridge crossing the surrounding moat. It is the best viewpoint of the city as it is built on a hill overlooking the surrounding areas. The Citadel of Aleppo is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. 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. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work has taken place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. Sadly, the Citadel has received significant damage in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
Below are scenes and people taken around Aleppo:-
When I was in Aleppo, never once did I feel unsafe. In fact, the smiles on the faces of the Syrian people (so evident in my photos) made me feel so welcome to their country. Children were ever so ready for me to snap photographs of them especially this bunch of students who were on a field trip to the Citadel. In a way, they were curious about me, a Chinese girl walking on their turf alone and were helping me to feel at home with them.
My sons have such a cushy life compared to these boys who were walking around selling their wares. They should be in school instead of eking out a living for survival sake. Wonder what happened to them in this current situation?
This photograph of Aleppo was taken from the top of the Citadel. Even in 2010, the city came across as drab and grey. But I wonder how much or how little is left now?
While visiting the Al-Madina Souq, this tantalising colourful spicy-looking bread caught my eyes. I can’t remember how much I paid for it but the taste of the various spices blending perfectly with the warm bread was so satisfying to say the least.
Normally when I travel, I try to stay away from diary food but this bowl of creamy yoghurt dessert was calling out my name and broke down my resistance. No regrets cos the combination of the crunchy crushed pistachios and the cold thick yet fluffy cream was heavenly.
Licorice or liquorice is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra is an herbaceous perennial plant which grows in Mediterranean countries from Anatolia to Spain. The plants grow to 50-120 cm and have bluish purple flowers.
Licorice plants are widespread in Syria, particularly in al-Raqqa governorate. Syrian licorice is considered one of the best in the world and is referred to as Euphrates licorice.
The licorice drink is produced by moistening the roots until they turn from yellow to reddish brown as they ferment. Afterwards, they are wrapped in cloth and soaked slowly with water. The water is then filterer for half an hour. This process requires twenty liters of water for each kilogram of licorice.
The licorice drink vendor walks around old marketplaces and allies, wearing his traditional outfit and carrying the drink in a container on his back.
Al-Madina Souq (Arabic: سوق المدينة) is the covered souq-market located at the heart of the Syrian city of Aleppo within the walled ancient part of the city. With its long and narrow alleys, al-Madina Souq is the largest covered historic market in the world, with an approximate length of 13 kilometers. It is a major trade centre for imported luxury goods, such as raw silk from Iran, spices and dyes from India and many other products. Al-Madina Souq is also home to local products such as wool, agricultural products and soap. Most of the souqs date back to the 14th century and are named after various professions and crafts, hence the wool souq, the copper souq, and so on. Aside from trading, the souq accommodated the traders and their goods in khans (caravanserais) scattered within the souq. Other types of small market-places were called caeserias (قيساريات). Caeserias are smaller than khans in size and functioned as workshops for craftsmen. Most of the khans took their names after their function and location in the souq, and are characterized by beautiful façades and entrances with fortified wooden doors.
Al-Madina Souq is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. Many sections of the souq and other medieval buildings in the ancient city were destroyed, ruined or burnt as a result of fighting between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Armed Forces beginning on 25 September 2012.