حلب السورية تتمتع بنهضة شاملة
خالد يعقوب – رويترز
second city Aleppo enjoys renaissance
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
March 20, 2007; 10:45 AM
ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters) - Aleppo, Syria's second city and one of the oldest
inhabited in the world, is enjoying a renaissance that
is restoring the ancient trading hub whose magnificent
buildings rivaled Istanbul's in Ottoman times.
Architectural gems -- bathhouses, madrassa schools, palaces, churches and
mosques -- stud
Calls to prayer ring out from the recently restored Grand Mosque just as
they did in the 8th century.
Labyrinthine covered souks that trace their history back four millennia sell
spices, the city's trademark laurel soap and the antique
textiles that were coveted in
But it was not always so.
When architect Adli Qudsi returned to his native
"Amazingly beautiful 700-year-old houses were destroyed. For the sake
of cars they brought in streets that destroyed big
sections of the old architecture," Qudsi said.
Qudsi's response was to assemble a group of activists to block plans to pull
down any more of the ancient city.
"It was disastrous, but we stopped it," Qudsi said.
Three decades later, international funding is pouring into
But there is still plenty of work to be done.
Old parts of
One-fifth of the old city was destroyed to make room for roads. Residents of
historic neighborhoods left when they found their
courtyard houses overlooked by new high-rise buildings.
Qudsi displays computer maps of a master plan identifying up to 2,000 of
10,000 Arab courtyard houses needing urgent repair.
Cars will no longer be allowed into parts of the old city, such as the
circular road around the Ayyubid castle, where a Hittite
temple was recently discovered.
The priority, Qudsi said, is to complete renewal of leaking sewage and water
systems, laid by the Ottomans and the French, to prevent
them from further damaging old houses and monuments.
The infrastructure is being rebuilt, around 60 percent of the sewage and
water system has been overhauled and telephone and
electricity services in some areas are now up to date.
German experts are overseeing restoration of the 19th century Shibanie
Catholic convent and projects to restore the medieval
castle are almost complete.
Foreign funding is coming from Germany,
the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in
"The major achievement of years of fighting and toiling is the fact
that the conversion and preservation of old
TOURISTS AND RESIDENTS
Tourists have traditionally enjoyed the beauty of
The work is also expected to attract residents back to the old city, which
used to house 300,000 people in the 1940s and now holds
one-third of that number.
Property prices are on the rise. Mohammad Fawzi, an Egyptian engineer,
bought a 700- or 800-year-old courtyard house next to
the citadel for $50,000 a few years ago and renovated
"Once you live in an Arab house you don't want to live anywhere else,
although it was a struggle to find craftsmen capable of
doing restoration work," Fawzi said. "Prices
have almost doubled since then but they are still a
Renovation work is complex. Some houses used too much concrete, compromising
the old flexible limestone roofs that helped
"There isn't sufficient technical assistance being provided to help
restore the old houses, but there is no doubt that
improvements are being felt in
The old Christian quarter outside the city walls has already seen a revival
and hotels and restaurants blend in among renovated
One house was converted into Qudsi's state of the art office, where Western
and Syrian architects who want to specialize in
preservation come to train.
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