Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Aleppo

I’ve been home from Syria for ten days, and pathetically, I have only written one blog post. I’ve been busy, you see – looking for a new apartment, catching up on work, being human…and absorbing. Since Prague, I haven’t traveled anywhere personally significant, and even Prague, even the city of a thousand spires, didn’t meet my expectations. Syria, on the other hand, exceeded them.

Of the cities I managed to visit, however, which were unfortunately quite few, Aleppo was my least favorite. Why, I still haven’t figured out. It was perhaps the similarities to Meknes; the meat hanging in butcher shop windows, the men welcoming me to Syria, the lack of women in the public sphere…

Before I go on, it’s probably worth mentioning the difficulty of going from one area of the Arab world to another with no real experience in between. From the Maghreb to the Levant is not a simple transition, you see. Many things look the same – the new parts of cities are almost identical; shop windows, signs, and even manner of dress are often very similar. The same language is spoken, for the most part the same religion practiced…but looks can be, and are, deceiving. Syria is a world away from Morocco but had you not spent significant time in one or the other, you might not notice how or why. I suppose in that sense I’m fortunate.

But Aleppo – you think you’re in Meknes but then you look up. And there it is, in all of its glory, towering above you, older than time, casting shadows over half of the city, just begging you to climb.

Aleppo Citadel

And climb we did…

Top of Citadel, Aleppo

There is so much to see from the top…

Aleppo skyline

And from the bottom…

Citadel from the bottom

And the souqs – oh, the souqs!  Although I had been turned off by my initial few hours in the city, it redeemed itself with glorious soaps, beautiful cloths, and towering stacks of spices…

Spices

With a last walk through the souqs, it was straight through to a taxi, then onward to Tartous.  But lest you think Aleppo left a bad taste in my mouth, it did not.  In fact, when I think of Aleppo, I will always think of fresh cherry kebabs:

Cherry Kebabs

8 Comments

  1. He Jill, actually just from looking at your pictures, I already got the feeling that Syria is somehow different (from Morocco) and the urge to travel there (of course). I would really like to know a bit more about iin how far Syria is different?

  2. I agree – I’d like to know about Syria as well, but I can well imagine the differences considering France and Spain’s influence on Morocco (and vice-versa) and, undoubtedly, the influence of Turkey and other countries further east on Syria (or at least I’d guess so, have never been there).

    I set up RSS for your blog, am looking forward to reading further entries.

  3. Loving your writings, Jillian, I dont like it when Syrian bloggers in the diaspora write about Syria during their short visit, with all this predictable romanticism and ornamentation in their posts. I have met tourists who spend years and learn nothing about Syria yet assume that’s they’ve “figured it out”. You stand alone with your honest good heart :)

  4. Lucky you!
    The sook looks like old Moroccan medina’s
    But what about the food… which one you think is best?

    • Okay, I don’t want to say Syrian food is BETTER, because I love Moroccan food, but it suits my tastes more: Syrian food is lighter, and more apt to be vegetarian. I had a tough time in Morocco because the vegetables are cooked too much, and the food is so heavy! I know it’s healthful, but it was hard for me, someone who is used to light cuisine (not American, of course – I eat a lot of East Asian food)

  5. Yes, it sounds better than Meknès (not too difficult in my opinion…) and the cherry kebabs look great !

  6. Those pictures are gorgeous! Makes me want to take a little trip and see it. The food looked delicious as well. I would also like to hear some of the differences you saw in the two countries.
    http://www.lifeaccordingtoleah.wordpress.com

  7. Thanks for your comment , hope to meet you in Aleppo again ,
    Now it is the last third of Ramadan ,
    you can follow me on Facebook :
    ” Aleppo on the silk road ”
    and you can share me your experience
    Actually we suffer when we leave Aleppo to find the food like ours , the last dish you show is Meat balls in Cherry , Aleppo is very famous for this dish in Syria and Lebanon , even in turkey , as we consider these three countries have the same cuisine ……………

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