Aleppo, frontline ghost town of ruined treasures
ALEPPO, Syria- Reuters
Until a few months ago, Old Aleppo was both a living museum and a breathing city but today it is a war zone and a ruin.A 13th century mosque is shuttered, its tottering minaret struck at the base by a shell. Snipers fire from nests atop the immense stone walls of the citadel, where ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Turkish warriors once perched.
Until a few months ago, Old Aleppo was both a living museum and a breathing city, where souk shoppers haggled over spices, books and olive-oil soap beneath wrought-iron filigree balconies and wooden lattice screens.
Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and economic hub. Its old district, with towering fortifications built by the medieval dynasty of Saladin after his 12th century victory over the crusaders, is also a UNESCO heritage site, its architecture declared a marvel of human achievement by the United Nations
Today it is a war zone and a ruin. Corrugated iron sheets pocked with bullet holes cover alleyways housing shuttered, burnt or demolished market stalls. Rebel fighters zigzag around in cars blasting revolutionary music.
U.N. officials who declared Old Aleppo a heritage site have catalogued some of the wonders to be found here.
“The 13th century royal palace, with its fine stalactite and honeycomb entrance porch, is inlaid with white marble,” they wrote.
During a walk through the old town, residents show the damage and describe their own heartbreak.
At the al-Uthmaniya mosque, a gaping hole has been blown through a dome dating to 1728. Concrete floors bear the marks of a shell, and the glass that decorated the tall arches at the entrance to the prayer hall has gone, shattered.
A shell has blasted through the atrium dome, and bits of broken coloured glass lie scattered around a fountain. Iron-lattice lanterns lie on the floor. An empty vending machine stands near white marble basins and colored ceramic mosaics.