Aleppo, Syria

Church and mosque coexist in Aleppo, Syria. Photo © Syrialooks.

Aleppo (Arabic: Halab; Greek: Berea), in northern Syria about 30 miles south of Turkey, is the second-largest city in Syria after Damascus with a population of over 1.7 million. It competes with Damascus for the title of the oldest continously inhabited city in the world.

The old section of Aleppo is built around a 12th-century-AD citadel that rests on a partly mound dominating the city and contains a small mosque. The old section has the most famous souks in the Middle East, which extend for miles through narrow streets. Its many khans (caravan stops), mosques, and merchants' houses are built of limestone, with many dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Aleppo has a significant Armenian Christian population and there are Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches here as well. The main site of religious interest is the Great Mosque (or Zakariyah Mosque), built by the Umayyads and containing the shrine of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Parts of the city's old stone walls, along with several of their gates, are still intact, and the National Museum displays ancient artifacts found in northern Syria at several major archaeological sites.

Great Mosque of Aleppo
This Umayyad mosque was founded just 10 years after its more famous counterpart in Damascus. Recently restored to gleaming beauty, it is notable for its geometric courtyard paving and shrine of Zechariah.
Maronite Cathedral
Built in 1873, this church has two pointed towers and a high dome. The Maronites are Eastern Catholics in full communion with the Pope, with a liturgy in Syriac.