Treasures of the East – The whispers of the citadel of Aleppo.

EN - Wednesday, 21 October 2020

The Citadel of Aleppo is a fortified medieval fortress built on a mound overlooking the old city.

The first citadel is said to have been erected in Hellenistic times by Seleucos Nicator1, a general of Alexander the Great. First Roman and then Byzantine, it was besieged and taken in 637 by the Arab general Khalid ibn al-Walid, before being partially destroyed by the Mongols during the capture of Aleppo in 1260. Taken over the same year by the Mamluks, it was rebuilt and fortified in 1292.

sos chretiens orient syrie alep citadelle ruines siteFrom this time, its ramparts have resisted storms and enemies. Not a single man has been able to cross them without permission. The jihadists, themselves, never succeeded in taking it despite the bombs.

The millennia-old stones of the ramparts fascinate and arouse the covetousness of tourists from all over the world and have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. Frustrated to have been gagged since 2012, the stones have been singing their melodious songs since the liberation of Aleppo in December 2016.

As if by the song of the sirens, visitors are caught as soon as they cross the eight-arch staircase bridge. Under their feet, the desperately empty moat runs all around the hill.

At the top of the stairs, stands a majestic gate. One of the two designed by Al-Malik Al-Dahir Ghazi, emir of Aleppo from 1186 to 1216. Decorated with sculptures in relief, the Lion Gate, symbol of royalty and power, and the Snake Gate mark the limits of a protected area.

Once inside the citadel, the visitor discovers the remains of a fortified city: a mosque and a Hammam, an amphitheatre and the throne room, the only buildings still identifiable. Around them, avalanches of stones let their flows mark the invincible ramparts.

If the rain of bombs did not have the upper hand on these high walls, it draped Aleppo in a veil of sadness. The horizon stretching from the top of the hill shows the destroyed Christian quarters. Yet amidst the rubble, the stones whisper the power of long ago and the hope of Aleppo rising again.