Country 2 - Syria
Aleppo Travel Blog› entry 5 of 36 › view all entries
From Antakya I caught a taxi across the border to Aleppo with three Syrians returning from a shopping trip in Istanbul. On reaching the border it transpired that the border guards had gone on lunch 20 mins earlier and therefore closed the border for an hour, therefore we had a somewhat frustrating 40 min wait. The whole process took around 2 hours, but the Syrians were quite good fun so the time passed quickly. Also got some duty free shopping in.
Once across the border it was a swift hour to Aleppo (Haleb to the locals) and I found my hostel pretty easily - Hotel Zahrat ar-Rabie (Spring Flower), and this was comfortable and cheap. Bumped into ther Swedish guy from Istanbul almost immediately, followed by Jessie, an Englishman I had met in Olympos.
The food was pretty good, at the least the street food (falafel, kebabs, various bread dishes) was, which is largely what I survived on in Aleppo. So cheap, stuffed for around 60p eating about 5 dishes. Friday is the Muslem Holy day and virtually everything closes down business-wise. Headed to the Great Mosque with Jessie early doors (visitors were welcome) and it was impressive. I thought that I was pretty much Mosque'd out, but this was built to a different format with a huge courtyard. Its around 1,300 years old with a fine wooden pulpit and (as seems to the case with most Mosques I have visited) impressive ornate decoration. Once prayers started Jessie wanted to stick around, but I felt uncomfortable so headed for the Citadel, a very imposing structure from without, on a hill in the middle of the city. Unfortunately within it was far less impressive, currently being restored and therefore looking somewhat like a building site. Its a huge place (the work is being sponsored by the Aga Khan, it would need his kind of money) and affords fantastic views over the city.
I also headed round the Christian Quarter which was more my cup of tea in comparison to the rest of the city. This area has lots of small streets with hidden churches (they tend to face interior courtyards), and was quite peaceful with little traffic. The main city feels a lot more hectic, the driving was pretty crazy and the Syrians love their car horns which really starts to grate after a while. Warning - people of a nervous disposition should not attempt to cross roads in Syrian cities!