The olive tree is the most important symbol of life and peace in the Middle East. It has been so central to daily life for thousands of years that it has a symbolic and practical weight beyond all other trees. It is mentioned in the Koran, the Bible and the Torah and its myth of origin is shared among the faiths. Adam’s son, born after his parents were expelled from the Garden of Eden, was allowed back to retrieve three seeds from the Tree of Knowledge. From these seeds grew the olive, the cypress and the cedar.
With an eye to the future, as well as recent photos and 360 video of the city published on Thursday, February 4, the Associated Press (AP) reports on the conversation surrounding the reconstruction of Aleppo. In their piece Rebuilding shattered Aleppo will take billions – and peace, Bassem Mroue and Sarah El Deeb note, on the one hand, the great risk posed by moving forward with reconstruction without a peace deal in place and, on the other hand, the urgent need to form rebuilding plans for the future of Syria.
In considering the risk, AP quotes Aleppo Project Fellow AlHakam Shaar who stresses the need to bring home exiled Aleppians, saying,“Any rushed reconstruction is dangerous and is likely to cut out the owners or the ex-residents as well.” Moreover, without a peace deal, in addition to excluding former inhabitants from the reconstruction process, the report notes that Western nations would not directly support support the government.
The first grand hotel of Aleppo, the Hotel Baron is remembered by Aleppians and the world alike for its historical glamor. Founded in 1911, the Baron is known for its famous clientele, including Lawrence of Arabia, Agatha Christie, President Theodore Roosevelt, and President Gamal Abdel Nasser among others. Located on the front line and featured in a number of articles since the start of the war, the Baron was most recently the subject of a BBC Outlook podcast with Mary Mazloumian of the family who founded the hotel. The podcast tells the history of the Baron’s extravagant opening as well as its more humanitarian spirit, with the Mazloumian brothers hosting those fleeing war from the Ottoman Empire.
Though shops in Aleppo’s Aziziyah district, above, and on Sharia Qawatli are more likely to resemble their western counterparts than those in the world’s oldest covered market, below, the suq is no timeless arcade: Fax machines whir, international magazines inspire dress design, and antiquarian bric-a-brac sells to tourists at a good profit.
Ghassan al Hussein
Appliances, Sharia Qawatli
Internet cafe and pastry shop, Sharia Qawatli
Aleppo vies with Damascus for the title of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Both are mentioned in Eblaite tablets from the third millennium BC, where Aleppo goes by the name Hal-pa-pa, but fine neo-Hittite reliefs recently found in Aleppo’s towering citadel mound may give a slight edge in the antiquity contest to this more northerly of Syria’s two largest cities.
Old Aleppo Revisited, a new series of biweekly posts on Mondays and Fridays, will feature the abundant authentic new imagery that is coming out on the web. Photos and descriptions are by Aleppians, including non-specialists, architects, and cultural heritage experts, who stayed in Western Aleppo and for the first time since late 2012 were able to visit these locations.
As an introduction to Old Aleppo Revisited, architect Louay Dakhel shares with us his analysis of the architectural effects on Al-Madrasa Al-Halawiyah, with much of its construction dating back to the Byzantine era, modestly featured on Facebook through photos he took on January 3, 2017.
He observes that about 95% of the structure is intact, with limited damage to a small part of one of the Byzantine columns in the prayer hall and just part of the half dome above these columns, as well as bullet marks on the external walls of the courtyard. Dakhel assesses that this minimal damage has no effect on its foundation and could easily be restored. Likewise, he notes that the Ayyubid mihrab is fully preserved behind a wall built for this purpose. He discerns the greatest effect to be on the woodwork, glass, and iron details, which have completely lost their architectural character.
Losing academic records or not being able to retrieve them from public universities in Syria is one of the common problems Syrian students are facing in the host countries. Many refugee students are trying to pursue their studies or equalize their degrees after overcoming the language barrier. However, bureaucracy and administrative regulations are preventing them from doing so.
(R.B) is a Syrian refugee with a B.A degree in Business Administration. He arrived to Germany in the middle of 2015. He has finished B2 level German which allows him to join a vocational training course in the country but he is preparing for the next language level (C1) to be able to study at university. Unfortunately, (R.B)’s dream to pursue an M.A degree in Germany is on hold because he does not have neither his B.A certificate nor his academic records. We met in a workshop in Berlin and (R.B) wanted to share his story with the Aleppo Project.
To over 50K followers on Twitter and in interviews with several global news agencies, among them BBC, Al-Jazeera, TRT, and the Independent, Lina Shamy’s in-the-moment reporting from eastern Aleppo spread the message of the siege to the world. Now reporting as an evacuee in the western countryside, she tells her story of going to Aleppo for university where she became active and critical of the regime. Shamy’s piece in the New York Times, I Went to Aleppo to Study. I Left in a Convoy of Refugees, pays homage to the memories of the former inhabitants’ last days in eastern Aleppo and details her journey back to Idlib where she grew up.
In an article in The New Arab Loubna Mrie explains how history of the conflict is being re-written by western mainstream media. Those who were before defined as revolutionary are now either portrayed as vile extremist or as though they never existed. With time those who gave their lives to fight against the regime will be forgotten making the uprising in Aleppo as it never happened. Any serious attempt to understanding the Syrian conflict has to take into consideration the point of view of its revolutionaries.
Alice Fordham walks around the city of Homs with local Architect Marwa al-Sabouni analysing reconstruction. The city was highly damaged during the war, some areas where turned into slums after the conflict. Areas previously held by rebel forces are deserted and left untouched since the citizens don’t have permission to reside there. Post conflict reconstruction not only has to take into account the structural damage but also the social divide entrenched since the start of the conflict.