Saturday, April 30, 2005

Aleppo's Big Ben

Bab Al-Faraj clock (1908)

Bab Al-Faraj Clock Today

Bab Al-Faraj Clock Tower:
- Located in Bab Al-Faraj square near the national library and national museum.
- Built during the reign of the ottoman administrator (Wali) Raef Pasha.
- Construction started in 1899 (1316 Hijri).
- The construction site used to be an old reservoir. It was replaced by a new closed reservoir, before building the clock tower on top.
- Construction finished in 1900 (1317 Hijri).
- The following poem was written on it:
........أنشـا لنا الملك الحميـد مـآثرًا
عظمت صناعتها وأي صناعه
........حامي حمى الدين المكين ومن له
أضحت سلاطين الورى أتباعه
........مـن ذاك في حلب أقام منـارة
تثني عليه بســاعة سـماعه
........أيـام دولـة رائف فخـر العلى
والي حمى الشـهباء أبرك ساعه
........ولذاك نادى في الورى تاريخـها
أثـر يقـوم إلى انفصال الساعه

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Go Jalaa Go!!!

Aljalaa Basketball Team 2005

Huge Jalaa' Win, and First Ever Season Loss to Leaders Al Ittihad - Apr. 25, 2005
Aleppo's Al Jalaa' has succeeded in doing what none of the other Syrian basketball teams could do this year... meaning beating the Ittihad team and Syrian leaders who were 19-0 before this game. The game finished Jalaa's favor 85-83 (Q1: 28-29 Q2: 47-45 Q3: 71-10 Final 85-83).

What makes the victory even sweeter is that Jalaa' and Ittihad are bitter rivals in the northern city of Aleppo where basketball passion rules and an Aleppo derby is an all-important event on its own.

What is noticed in Jalaa' is the huge input of the national players Michel Maadanli and Hikmat Haddad new in the Jalaa' team. Both renowned stars for the Jeish (Army) team of Damascus the capital and both immensely popular, they defected to Al Jalaa' at the beginning of season 2004-2005 with the firm commitment of the Jalaa' administration to redeem the "glory days" of Jalaa' when they were the undisputed basketball champions of Syria for so many years before rivals al Ittihad also of Aleppo took over the torch. Eventually though, the Damascan teams Al Wehda and Al Jeish took over until this year when the Aleppo fans have redeemed most of the glory and highlights whereas both Al Wehda and Al Jeish are suffering from reduced notice.

This 2004-2005 season is an Aleppo season par excellence. Both Aleppo teams played big cards this year and with a huge media fanfare to take back the basketball passion that was theirs from the start.

Popularly known as "Micho", Maadanli comes originally from the Suleymaniyyah neighbourhood of Aleppo, so this was a sort of returning home for him. Although initially he suffered an injury that put him on the Jalaa' bench, he has lately made a huge comeback and this sweetest of wins against a team that wanted him and couldn't get him. Maadanli has also proved to be popular with other Syrian basketball fans and is actively cheered by almost all basketball fans in Syria and outside wherever he plays. This goes beyond the general trend of Syrian fans on picking on the star players of other rival teams with zeal and vengeance to intimidate them. But Maadanli with the obvious charisma and charm that he exerts on court and off court is somehow saved such taunting...Michel Maadanli is tipped as the top player of Syria after the passing of the era of Anwar Abdul Hayy and Mohammed Abou Saada.

The energetic and ambitious administration of Al Jalaa' is presided by Hani Azzouz.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Harvard University Prize awarded to Aleppo

The Old Aleppo (1940's)

The Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design is awarded by the Harvard Design School every two years to recognize excellence in urban design with an emphasis on projects that contribute to the public realm of a city and improve the quality of its urban life.
This year the jury gave the prestigious prize to Aleppo for its rehabilitation and modernization of the ancient city center while maintaining the integrity and historical authenticity of the urban fabric.
The Green Prize is the foremost award recognizing achievement in this field, and the City of Aleppo shares the special distinction, along side Barcelona (1990) and Mexico City (1996), as the only cities that have received the award since it was established in 1986 .

On Wednesday (April 13), the Design School held a symposium, “Aleppo: New Perspectives on the Old City”, followed by the presentation of the prize to Maan Chibli, the city's mayor and a professor of urban planning and development at the University of Aleppo. An exhibition based on the project will be on display in the Gund Hall exhibition area through May 25.

Professor Joan Busquets, the jury chair wrote: “Aleppo shows us how urban rehabilitation in a historic setting can transmit a vital new meaning when the main focus is restoring urban fabric rather than rebuilding monuments.”
Hashim Sarkis, the Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Societies said: “I believe the city center has been saved because of the high esteem in which Aleppines hold their city.”
That pride is reflected in the uniquely grassroots manner in which the rehabilitation was conducted. While the renovation of the sewer system and other large-scale projects were undertaken by the municipal authorities with technical support by the German agency Gesellschaft fu"r Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), much of the renovation of private dwellings was done by the inhabitants themselves with advice and subsidies from the city.

“These are mostly working class people, not yuppies,” said Busquets. “This shows that with limited means you can improve housing conditions so that normal people can live in these places.”

Sources and more Info.:
The Harvard Gazette

The Green Prize-Aleppo2005

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Today I am Armenian

April 24th is the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
In Aleppo, Christians and Armenians hold church services in memory of the 1.5 million people who perished in the first genocide of the twentieth century (1915-1923).
Many stores in Aleppo, especially those located in Armenian quarters such as Sulemanieh and Midan, remain close on this day. Many Non Armenians close their stores as well, in a show of solidarity with the Armenian community in Aleppo, and by doing so, they become themselves “Armenians for a day”.

(It should be noted that, although the majority of those killed in the genocide were Armenians, many Christians from other denominations were also among the victims, and they too fled to Syria during and after the genocide.)

For more info.:
Armenian National Institute

Saturday, April 23, 2005

An Aleppine Icon: Sabah Fakhri

Sabah Fakhri is the most famous performer of the traditional “qudood” and “muwashahat” music types. He was born in Aleppo to a conservative family. He was enrolled into to the Academy of Arabic Music of Aleppo then to the Academy of Damascus, from which he graduated in 1948. Then in Cairo, Egypt, he studied under the music masters of that time, and since then he started performing concerts in Syria. He soon became famous all over the Arab World. He also performed many concerts in Europe and the Americas. His name is enshrined in the Guinness Book of Records for his prowess in Caracas, where he sang for 10 hours without a pause.

Damascus Online

BTW what's your favorite song?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Al Tawheed Mosque

This is one of the most beautiful mosques in Aleppo, and my personal favorite.
It is located at the beginning of "Al-Hilal Al-Ahmar" (red crescent) street, and the entrance to the “Villate” district.
Besides its marvelous architecture, hand crafted white stones (something Aleppo is very well known for) and silver dome, this mosque forms a beautiful triangle with two nearby churches; The Roman Catholics’ St. George Basilica (to the right), and the Chaldean Catholic archdiocese and church (not shown). The three buildings stand as a testimony to what Aleppo (and Syria) is all about, and they remind me every time I pass by them, that I truly live in "The Cradle of Civilizations".

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

“Habemus Papam” : We have A Pope

White smoke and ringing bells signaled the election of a new Pope
(Aleppo 7:10 pm)

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, 78, Is Elected 265th Pope, Taking Benedict XVI as Name.

A Syrian Pope?

Just like all 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, Aleppo’s Catholics are also eagerly waiting to see who the next Pope will be.
Yesterday I discovered that among the 115 Cardinals currently inside the Sistine chapel electing the Pope, there is one Syrian Cardinal: Ignace Moussa I Daoud, 74, Prefect Emeritus of Oriental Churches. That means that there is a chance (although be it a very slim one) that the next Pope might come from Syria.
I also discovered that throughout history there have been 7 Popes from Syria, and they are:
1- Evaristus (107)
2 - St. Anicetus (155-166) was an inhabitant of Hims, his annual feast day, April 17th
3- John V (685-686)
4- Sergius I (687-701) came from a Syrian family, which had settled at Palermo, Sicily. He introduced into the Latin Liturgy, the prayer "Agnus Dei" at the moment of the breaking of the bread; he also solemnized the celebration of the four principal feasts of the Blessed Virgin: The Nativity, the Purification, the Annunciation, and the Dormition.
5- Sisinnius (708)
6- Constantine I (708-715) was a champion of papal rights against the tyranny of the Byzantine emperors. He was the first to wear the Tiara of Eastern origin.
7- Gregory III (731-741) was a Benedictine of Syrian origin. He was noted for his linguistic abilities and his subtle sense of humor. A great missionary pope, he organized the religious structure of Germany under St. Boniface as Metropolitan. It was he who obtained the political sovereignty of Rome (with himself as temporal ruler) from Pepin the Short. This sovereignty existed until 1870.

History of Aleppo

Aleepo as viewed from the citadel

- Aleppo, going back to the early 2nd millennium BC, competes with Damascus on being the oldest inhabited city in the world. It appeared in the Hittite archives in central Anatolia and in the archives of Mari on the Euphrates.
- The city of Aleppo is situated in the plain that stretches from the Orontes to the Euphrates in the northwestern extremity of the Syrian desert. It rises in the middle of an oasis on the eight little hills.
- Aleppo (Halab) was the capital of the Amorite kingdom of Yamkhad, in the middle centuries of that millennium. It was the focus of the Hittites in their overthrow of the Amorite Dynasty, in 1595 BC. In about 1000 BC, Northern Syria was taken over by the Sea Peoples; however Aleppo remained a small Neo-Hittite state. From 800 BC to 400 BC, the Assyrians followed by the Persians were in control of Syria.
-In 333 BC, Aleppo was taken over by Alexander the Great, and was kept under the Greeks for 300 years in the form of the Seleucid Empire. During this time Aleppo was an important trading city, between the Euphrates and Antioch.
-In 64 BC Pompey brought Syria under Roman domination. It remained under Roman control in the form of the Byzantine Empire until 637AD, when the Arabs took over.
-In the 10th century Aleppo was taken over by the Hamdanids who made it virtually independent until 962 AD when it was retaken by the Byzantine Empire. In 1098, it was circled by soldiers from the First Crusade who could not conquer it, but paralyzed its commercial power. It was besieged again in 1124 by another Crusade, and then taken over by Zengi and his successor Nur al Din.
-Saladin then took over and at his death the Ayyubid dynasty was perpetuated in Aleppo. At the Mameluke period, trade was diverted from Aleppo to the North in Antioch and to the South through Palmyra. But when the Mongol Empire broke up and some converted to Islam, trade resumed through Aleppo. The Ottomans later took over, but by that time Europe had redirected its trade through sea routes to India and China.
-During World War I, Aleppo's trade rose with the arrival of Armenian refugees, who fled the Ottoman massacres. But after France had given Antioch to Turkey, Aleppo lost its Mediterranean outlet.

Monday, April 18, 2005


We call it in Aleppo TERTERA (with a thick T), and I am not sure if it is called the same in other Syrian cities, or if other Arab countries have them…
I haven’t seen one in our streets for a while, probably because they were banned (I wonder why?!!).
The thing that always bugs me about TERTERA is that the driver always seems to be enjoying himself, as if he is enjoying torturing us with the horrible noise his “vehicle” makes. However, I must admit, I would like to “test drive” one myself someday, wouldn’t you?!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Aleppo 101

-City in Syria with 1.9 million inhabitants (2003 estimate).
-Commercial and cultural centre of northern Syria.
-Aleppo is situated on an arid plateau at an elevation of 430 metres above sea level.
-Ancient Aleppo was known as Beroea, and it dates back to at least 1000 BCE.
-According to an Arab tradition, Abraham lived in it, and distributed some milk to every comer, hence the town's name, Haleb.
-Aleppo's economy is based on trading of agricultural products; on carpet factories, output of silk, cotton, wool textiles, embroidery, silver and gold artefacts; and leather goods.
-Aleppo has a university, which was founded in 1960.
-The city's architecture is a nice mixture between the modern and the traditional. Most famous of Aleppo's sights is the citadel, from where all of the city can be seen. Other sights, like the Mosque of Zacharias, is said to be the situated on the location of the tomb of John the Baptist's father.

Happy Independence Day

My first Post

Hello! Salut! Hola! Marhaba!