President in mosaics

Aleppo is Syria’s second centre, and like Damascus it also claims to be world’s oldest continually-inhabited city. With the city’s modernization and congested street traffic, it’s kind of hard to believe. But the signs are there. Although nothing much to look at from the outside, the hostel we stayed at must have been over 300 years old — and it was located in the new town! A short walk away was the ancient citadel (12th century AD) and the Great Mosque (Al-Jamaa Zacharia) from the 7th century AD. Most other traces that date back a few more thousand years are now long gone. To me, Damascus felt more ancient, with ancient Roman ruins scattered throughout the city. But that’s just my opinion — I’ll leave the experts to argue over which claim is more correct.

Spice man

We spent a couple days exploring Aleppo. We did more wandering than sightseeing since we were pretty zonked after all the whirlwind sightseeing we’d been doing up through Jordan and the south of Syria. Aleppo had a fantastic old souq we had fun getting lost in. It was pleasant walking with barely any hassle and loads to see. The souq item of choice in Aleppo was pure olive oil soap which came in varying grades and quality. The best stuff was aged eight years and was brown on the outside and bright green on the inside. The stuff smelled heavenly. The spices and teas smelled equally as heavenly, and were found in spades. Otherwise it was mostly a local market selling sweeties, meat, fabrics and clothes.

The ol' citadel

We noticed a difference in attitudes between the people in Aleppo versus Damascus. They were nice, but not as outwardly nice as the people in Damascus, who definitely left us with a positive impression. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Damascus sees more tourists than Aleppo, I’m not sure. You’d think that would have the reverse effect, however.

Gooey sugary stuff you eat with a spoon!

We spent our evenings mostly hanging out at our hostel, Spring Flower, which was great, but had a very creepy Lonely Planet description we’d read after checking in. The writer must have had a terrible experience because she bashed the place, saying some of the staff peeped at girls in the shower and that the rooms were dark, dingy and way overpriced. Ok, the peeping is really bad but the rest of the description was way off — this was the cheapest and best place we’d stayed in all of Syria. Internet, cold beer, book exchange, and hot water — what more could you need? Not that we didn’t know already, but take Lonely Planet’s descriptions with a grain of salt. Our last night was spent with Toon before going our separate ways again. Next stop: Turkey.


    Fantastic site, and beautiful photography! I’m enjoying poking around here a bit. Impressive stats and record keeping too :)

    Thanks! Hope it’s helpful for your own journey. You’ll love Africa! Safe travels.

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