ALEPPO, Nov 17 — Under the centuries-old archways in an alley in Syria’s famed Aleppo Old City, a small glimpse of the once-bustling market re-emerged yesterday, despite the ravages of war.
Restoration work has brought a small part of the famed Old City’s market back to life, and the restored arches glowed in purple lighting as traders once again plied wares including the city’s famous olive oil soap.
A Unesco World Heritage site, the Old City of Aleppo has been devastated by the war that began with anti-government protests in March 2011.
For four years, the Old City was a front line in the battle between rebels and government forces, who recaptured the city in full in December 2016.
Much of the famed Old City and its souk remain badly scarred, but yesterday in the Souk al-Jumruk, local officials reopened a part of the market that has been restored.
The stone archways bore no signs of the years of artillery and gunfire that rang through the narrow alleys, and a large poster of President Bashar al-Assad hung from one of them, looking down on decorated Christmas trees.
The metal shopfronts were still down, with many owners yet to begin renovating and reopening their stores.
But for the occasion of the area’s reopening, a four-day street market was set up, with traders selling handicrafts, traditional carpets and even the famed Aleppo soap on stalls along the alleyway.
‘Commercial nerve centre’
The covered market of Old Aleppo, with its multiple alleyways selling everything from homeware to artisanal products, was the largest in the world, with some 4,000 shops and 40 caravanserais.
In the Khan al-Jumruk caravanserai, the area where caravans of travelling artisans or traders once stopped, partial restorations have been completed and several fabric and carpet sellers have reopened their shops.
Among them was Suhaib Karbuj, who abandoned his shop years earlier when the neighbourhood was held by rebels.
“Before, we used to export our merchandise to Iraq, Libya and Algeria,” he said, showing up his curtains decorated with embroidery.
“We have returned to the Khan al-Jumruk to revive its businesses, because Aleppo is the industrial and commercial nerve centre of the country,” he said.
But outside the area, much of the Old City remains in ruins, with facades ripped apart by fighting, and piles of rubble strewn across routes.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began, and over half the country’s population has been displaced internally or abroad. — AFP