Aleppo and the north

It was a welcome treat to get to the sprawling metropolis of Aleppo. Lots more food and mint tea as well as the huge souq to wander around and marvel at, and the museum of course. What was interesting was the plethora of small generators outside all the shops. It became apparent mid evening why they were there. Aleppo gets all its power from hydro electric. If Turkey does not let the water from it’s dam to enter Syria then the power gets turned off to. Sure enough the lights went out and then there was the multiple sounds of generators being started. It was very relaxing strolling around the city in the evening, watching the shopkeepers hard at work and the occasional whiff of food and/or spices from the many street stalls.

The following day it was time to explorer the citadel. It dominates the skyline as it is set up on a mound with it’s defensive walls looking very imposing. The entrance is elaborately decorated but hides a very very secure entrance with numerous right angle turns and steel doors as you enter the inner walls. It must have taken a determined effort to breach it. Once inside you get great view over the city in all directions.

The next day I visited 2 locations recommended in the guidebook. ?Qala’at Samaan (St Simeon of Styites) and Ain Dara. First step was to get the bus to Daret ‘ Azze, this was easy enough. However, the exciting and adventurous part of the day started once I negotiated with a local Kurdish driver to show me around the sites for the day. He spoke pretty good English and knew exactly where to take me.

Ain Dara was the first stop. A Hittite mountain god temple from 1000 years BC. It is still being excavated now, but the finds are astonishing. There is a huge superbly cut basalt stature of a lion. The quality of workmanship is tremendous for such an old piece of stonework. Even more impressive once you consider that Basalt is one the hardest of rocks and would have taken ages to work and carve, let alone to this level of quality. with my guide leading the way we traipsed all over the site investigating all sorts, with me asking more and more questions as it became more interesting.

Getting in to Qala’at Samaan was a true adventure. We headed from Ain Dara to the main entrance. At this point there was a heated argument between the security guard for Qala’at Samaan and my driver. The driver said they would not let me as I was with him. And he was a Kurd, not liked at all my the Syrian security guard. The driver said I had a choice. To leave the car and him behind or go with him to a secret entrance. The latter sounded far more exciting. So we reversed and sped off down the road to the rear entrance to the site. We both then climbed over the locked gate and played cat and mouse with site security, hiding behind walls, pillars and terraces so as not to get noticed. In the glorious evening sun it was just magical. As we eventually got back to his car there was a sense of euphoria and a big smile on both of our faces. We had done it.

A very well earned meal and mint tea was the order of the day on the return to Aleppo that evening. It was one of those special days that will live with me for a very long time.

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