City in Syria with 2.1 million inhabitants (2005 estimate), the largest city of Syria.
Entry to the citadel of Aleppo.
Overlooking the citadel of Aleppo.
Tilel street in the Jdeydeh quarter of Aleppo. Photo: Alexanyan
It is one of very few cities to make claim on being the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world. The oldest known name was Khalpe. this later became Arman, then Halab. With the Greeks the name was changed to Beroea.
In the times of the Crusades, it was called Alep. Its present Arabic name of Halab has no clear origin. It may refer to iron or copper which may have been mined here in antiquity, or it may refer to the white soil of the region.
Aleppo has had a tense relationship with Damascus for long time. There have been attempts from Aleppo to replace Damascus as capital. Aleppo's elite have often favoured close connections with Iraq, in contrast to Damascus which have sought alliance with Egypt.
Geography and Climate
Aleppo is about 120 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea, at a plateau at an elevation of 430 metres above sea level, with the city spreading out on 8 hills. The entire metropolitan area is more than 190 km².
Aleppo is located along the Quweiq river, which again flows (since 2006) after drying up in the 1950's. While the surrounding landscape appears fairly arid, it still supports rich and effective agriculture.
Aleppo receives about 395 mm of annual rainfall, temperatures range between an average of 36ºC in summer and 1ºC in winter. Highest recorded temperature is 46ºC, lowest -13ºC. It is very rare with snow.
The cornerstone of Aleppo's economy has always been trade, positioned at the end of the Silk Road: The mountains to the north and desert to the south creates a narrow passable "gorge" in which Aleppo is the westernmost point.
In addition to trade, local agriculture is highly productive, and modern industries the most developed for Syria, dominated by the industrial plants in the Shaykh Najjar district.
Among the main products produced from and around Aleppo are precious metals and stones; carpets; silk, cotton, wool textiles; embroidery, silver and gold artifacts; leather goods; alcoholic beverages. Tourism is an emerging activity in Aleppo.
The most famous product of Aleppo is the laurel soap, considered the world's first hard soap.
Aleppo had one of the first chambers established in the Middle East, when its Chamber of commerce was founded in 1885. This reflected the city's deep traditions in international trade.
Culture and Education
While Aleppo is the commercial and cultural centre of northern Syria, central politics have favoured Damascus, neglecting many institutions and functions of Aleppo. In recent years, this has changed, allowing Aleppo investments and important projects.
Aleppo is well known for traditional and classical music, and there are several important music festivals staged at the citadel amphitheatre.
Aleppo now has two universities, Aleppo University was founded in 1960, and has now more than 60,000 students.
Architecture and Landmarks
Despite the long history, almost nothing has survived from the historical periods of Amorites, Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Seleucids, Romans and Byzantines.
Aleppo is different from Damascus in the sense that large quarters have survived intact, both with buildings and functions.
Most continuous quarters date back to 15th century or more recent. The last grand era is from early 20th century, when the French added their styles and open squares. In recent decades, there have been playful modern additions, reflecting the economic growth.
A noteworthy dimension to Aleppo is how different groups, depending on religion or ethnicity, built self-sufficient quarters with outer structures intended on hindering advancing armies and bandits. The oldest parts of Aleppo are known as the Old and the New (Jdeydeh). The Old part is within the very oldest city boundaries, the New is a Christian quarter from the 15th century.
The suq of Aleppo is the largest covered in the world, built between the 15th and 17th centuries and with length of 13 km.
The most famous of Aleppo's sights is the citadel, from where all of the city can be seen.
The Great Mosque of Aleppo, also known as the Zakariyah Mosque, greatly resembles the Great Mosque of Damascus, and they were founded about the same time, 715 CE. Earthquakes, fires and bouts have necessitated rebuildings to the point that little if anything is older than the 13th century, except the minaret which was added in 1092. The focal point is the draped reliquary said to contain the head of the father of John the Baptist.
An interesting dimension to Aleppo is the "dead cities" in the surrounding region. Contrary to Aleppo itself, these have many examples of Roman and Byzantine structures.
Aleppo is a fast growing city. In 1901 it had about 108,000 inhabitants, meaning that the population doubled 20 times through the century (the country as a whole doubled 17 times (see Syria / Demographics). The Christian population grew fast in the early 20th century by refugees after the
Armenian Genocide. Many Armenians moved to Soviet Armenia in 1946 and 1947.
Today there are about 85% Sunni Muslims, while Christians count about 15%. The former Jewish community now only counts a few dozen people.
The Christians are of the Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches.
The ethnic groups of Aleppo is most varied among the Muslims counting Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Circassians, Chechens, Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgarians and Kabardin.
11th millennium BCE: At Tell Qaramel, 25 km north, human settlements.
Around 5000: Earliest traces of settlement at Aleppo, found at excavations at the Black Hill.
3rd millennium: Aleppo is the capital of the Arman kingdom, which is only known by external sources.
23rd century: King Naram-Sin of Akkad has Arman destroyed together with Ebla.
Around 1830 BCE: In Northern Syria, the Amorite kingdom, Yamkhad, is established with Arman as its capital.
18th century: Arman is now called Halab in Babylonian texts.
Between 1620-1590: Hittite king Mursili 1, conquers Halab.
16th century: Halab gains back former strength, exploiting the increasing weakness of the Hittites.
15th century: Mitanni conquers and annexes Halab.
14th century: Again included in the Hittite Empire, becoming a central city of Hittite religion.
12th century: Becomes part of the Arpad kingdom.
9th century: Annexed by Assyria.
Late 7th century: Becomes part of the Babylonian Empire.
6th century: Transferred to Achaemenid Persia.
333: Conquered by Alexander the Great.
301: Becomes part of the Seleucid Empire, renamed Beroea.
64: Handed over to Pompey and Rome, making the city and the region a Roman province.
395 CE: As Rome is divided, Beroea becomes part of the Byzantine Empire.
616: Occupied by Persian Sassanid ruler Khosrau 2.
637: Conquered by Muslim Arabs, name shifts to Halab (Aleppo, which is the Western form, is used here).
944: Aleppo becomes capital of a newly independent emirate under the Hamdanid prince Sayf ad-Dawla. This begins a great period for Aleppo, both economically and culturally.
974: Conquered by the Byzantines.
987: Taken back by the Hamdanids, but they enter a pact with the Fatimid rulers of Cairo.
1004: The Fatimids have the Hamdanid rulers replaced.
1023: Establishment of the Mirdasid Dynasty, using Aleppo as royal court.
1098: Besieged by Crusaders, but is not conquered.
1124: Second beseige by the Crusaders, again surviving the advances.
1128: Aleppo submits to Zangi, in exchange of military protection against the Christian Crusaders. It thereby becomes part of the Zangid state.
1138: One of world history's heaviest earthquakes hits Aleppo district, killing perhaps 230,000 people.
1183: Comes under control of the strong Muslim leader, Saladin, making it subject of Cairo.
1260 January 24: Aleppo, now a city of the Mamluks of Cairo, is taken by the Mongols, seing its Muslim population killed alongside many Jews, the Christians were spared. Control of Aleppo is transferred to the Emir of Homs.
October: Retaken by the Mamluks, but Mongols would attack Aleppo a few more times over the following two decades, but without taking control.
1317: The Mamluks fail to continue their control of Aleppo, and the city becomes ruled by local rulers.
1516: Becomes part of the Ottoman Empire. Strategically positioned for distant trade, Aleppo benefits greatly from the stability of the empire, becoming one of the richest and largest cities, greatly surpassing Damascus.
16th and 17th centuries: Many European states open consulates in Aleppo.
1722: The Safavid Dynasty of Persia fall, and with that the silk route by which Aleppo was one of the richest cities, disappear.
1827: Plague kills between 20% and 25% of the population.
Middle 19th century: Agriculture around Aleppo becomes highly specialized in cotton and tobacco production.
1869: The Suez Canal opens, taking away much of the trade travels passing through Aleppo.
1920 September: The State of Aleppo is declared under French supervision, covering about half of modern Syria, the northern parts, but separated from the Mediterranean Sea.
1920's: Struggle over Aleppo and the region around between France and Turkey. It ends with a division, where much of the Aleppo province becomes Turkish.
1923: The French forms a federation of Damascus, Aleppo and the Alawite State (which would leave the federation the following year).
1939: Turkey annexes Alexandretta, thereby depriving Aleppo of its port.
1970: Hafez al-Assad becomes president. He would strongly favour Damascus, causing economic and cultural stagnation for Aleppo.
2006:Aleppo named by the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) as the capital of Islamic culture.