Monday, April 2, 2007

The Real Attraction

While in Aleppo we made some forays to sites in the vicinity - Saint Simeon and the Aleppo Citadel. At both places we felt like we were the attraction rather than the site. Saint Simeon (392 - 459 CE) is the site where Simeon perched himself on a 18m pillar and gave daily sermons about resisting sin and temptation. He refused to talk to women and had himself outfitted with a chain and collar so he would not fall off the pillar at night.

Here is Yo with what is left of the pillar.

While in Syria for 8 days we met only one other North American (a young student in Aleppo), so people from the US and Canada are a novelty and everyone wanted to talk to us.

This was especially true of A and B, both of whom speak Arabic.

Here A is with a school group. When asked about how she felt about "dying babies in Iraq", she told the students all about special interest groups and the US political system. Mystified, many of the girls turned to us to ask more mundane questions like: "Do you love your husband? Did you love him when you married him?" and the loaded "Did you 'know' (meaning meet or hang out with) him before you got married?"

At the Citadel the shabab (young men) were out in full force and they were very interested in our travelling companions.

This is the view of the Citadel from our hotel. The Citadel dominates the city, it served as a power base for the Muslims during the Crusades during the 12th century. Much of what you see today was probably rebuilt during the later Mameluke period (1250-1517).

After a full day of sightseeing and shopping in the Aleppo Souq (marketplace), Yo and I wandered around another part of the city, stumbling upon the copper pot making area and the rubber tire fixing alley.

The four of us then ventured into another area of Aleppo, Al-Jdeida, for dinner at Beit as-Sissi (beit means house and the restaurant is an old Ottoman house). The food is great Levantine fare (mezzes - hummus, baba ganou, olives, kebab), but the big draw here is the underground bar in the former cellars of the house. It is a cave-like grotto (and smells musty like a cave) with various faces of goblins and ghosts carved into the walls.

Here we are reading the guidebooks and deciding our next plan of action.

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