Bearing witness: the destruction of the Old city of Aleppo, the second oldest city in the world, Part three continued

All 4 parts of the documentation of the destruction of Ancient Aleppo will be updated to include more damage to heritage as it occurs.

I am going to continue with Part Three of my documentation of the damage inflicted upon the cultural heritage of Syria, specifically that of Aleppo. I was thinking to myself last night that walking through the souks of old Aleppo under those magnificent honeycombed vaults meandering and continuously unfurling, here into a khan that looked like a dreamy forgotten palace and there into a peaceful slumbering mosque, hording treasures that devotion wove meticulously,must have been like walking in a gigantic cathedral with mazes and secret passages waiting to surprise you at every bending.  Yet those souks were not a solemn cathedral but one bursting with life, colour and humanity. A people’s cathedral? A cathedral for the rich, the poor, the healthy and the sick, for loud and frisky little children and slow  shaky old men,where donkeys could meditate and cats hide in the lazy corners to doze off and dream of mice.

I am here to praise and bury the fallen monuments of Aleppo because it is not fitting that the Old city should die and be interned without an epitaph.The least I can do is to name them, the fallen monuments, mosques, souks and khans.

But yet again before I plunge  into the depths and woes of my subject, I would like to quote the following words which I half dreamt as I was waking up this morning and kept  repeating to myself, words from  the Burial of the Dead by T. S. Eliot: “Son of man/You cannot say, or guess,  for you know only/A heap of broken images…I will show you fear in a handful of dust”.  Broken images of Aleppo, broken images of the broken lives of the old city.

Why do the keepers of history, the archaeologists, care for the dead only, dead cities, dead civilizations and dead monuments? A living museum, animated history in motion, was allowed to perish and turn into a heap of dust and burnt ashes mainly by the mindless ruthless might of the airborne engines of doom without significant protests even from the UNESCO, without mass mustering of efforts and means on the part of the media, the learned journals, the academicians and the specialists? But first of all I blame the UNESCO because the Old City is a World Heritage Site protected by International law. The UNESCO should have interfered to bear pressure on the Syrian government to stop its air bombardment of the Old City and perhaps convince the two warring parties to stop fighting in the Old City. I do not think Russia would have objected to the protection of a World Heritage Site.   Moreover, yes I do blame the museums, the archaeological societies and institutes, the custodians of art and antiquities for their glaring lax indifference to what was happening and is happening in Syria, one of the open living museums of mankind.  

Why did not the numerous archaeological teams working in Syria do something practical in order to preserve the sites they were working in? Did I see any simple, straightforward instructions or advise in the form of manuals or guidelines distributed to the social media, to Facebook and Twitter attempting to establish contact with the people on the ground, with the young people of Syria dying to be of service to their heritage and history? It is no use relying entirely on the Syrian official channels of communication or on the Directory of Museums and Antiquities in Damascus. What they had to say about the destruction of Old Aleppo is shameful and and pathetic, to say the least. Recently some villagers living near the archaeological sites began to organize themselves in order to protect their heritage. If each Archaeological team had established a site on the internet offering advice, better still if each of them acquired a page on Facebook and made themselves known to the Syrian Facebookian host, it might be that they could have contributed to the efforts to stop looting and  vandalism or have shown how to administer first aid to damaged monuments and conduct virtual salvage operations to save what could be saved from the wrecked  and destroyed monuments. Is it  too much to have such expectations in the age of technology  and mass communication? Only bad news travels fast not good news. We allow wars to rage, fester and annihilate while we watch, cogitate, debate and kill each constructive effort with foolish empty words, confined to our fears, hesitations, pragmatism and futile sick arguments? Do not talk to me about a civilized world.  It does not exist. Yes I am bitter, profoundly bitter. look below and you will see why.

Finally, to all those who will read this documentation, please bear in mind that I regard my devoted and painstaking efforts  to register and record the damage to Aleppo’s cultural heritage as scholarly and not aimed at producing a publicity piece to discredit the regime and acquit the rebels from responsibility. I reiterate, the fighting on the ground between the two opposing parties in the Old City led to disastrous consequences, but it was the terrible fire from the skies which laid to waste a city built to last, fortified with thick stone walls and mighty architecture.

In this final Part of Part Three I am going to concentrate on the damage to the khans, hammams and the old quarters of Aleppo which has so far sustained significant hear-breaking damage. As, it has been my method, the damaged or destroyed buildings and monuments will be marked by italics, underlining and asterisks. I did not mark a monument as damaged until I had seen a visual proof of its destruction or semi destruction, although it stands to reason that if the surroundings of a monument are destroyed, the monument itself, in all probability,  must have met with the same fate. Please refer to Part Two and Three of this documentation while reading the present part.

The khans of Aleppo: caravansaries

The khans, like old inns, were built to accommodate travelers and care for their animals. The most prominent were, in addition, centres of trade and money exchange, while many had their own souks inside and outside them to enhance commerce. Aleppo received and sent embassies since the thirteenth century and signed treaties with foreign countries giving them the right to trade and have their own communities which were accommodated in the Khans. “Most of the khans took their names after their location in the souq and function, and are characterized with their beautiful façades and entrances with fortified wooden doors.” The Khans also display an amalgamation of architectural features, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman.

Aleppo’s khans kept multiplying to meet the needs of the merchants and travelers until they numbered 150, 27 of which were part of the fabric of the Al-Madina souk as they presided over commerce and had their own souks named after them .

The magnificent Mamluk ornamentation of khan Al-Saboun

The magnificent Mamluk ornamentation of khan Al-Saboun, courtesy of Arch net

 لقد أقامت الجاليات الأجنبية في خانات “حلب” منذ القرن 13م وكان لكل جالية طبيبها الخاص ومن أشهرهم “الأخوان راسل” اللذان وضعا كتاباهما الضخم عن “حلب” بعنوان”تاريخ حلب الطبيعي” الذي طبع في لندن في العام 1756 و1794م وقد كانت إقامة هذه الجاليات في الخانات في صلب الاتفاقيات الدولية كاتفاقية الامتيازات المعقودة بين السلطان “سليمان القانوني” وملك فرنسة “فرانسوا الأول” في العام 1535م، كما كانت هذه الخانات مقر القناصل فمثلاً كانت لفرنسة قنصلية في “خان الجمرك” منذ أوائل القرن 16 وتبعها افتتاح قنصليات أخرى بلغ عددها تسع حتى مطلع القرن العشرين وكانت أول قنصلية انكليزية في مطلع القرن 17 في كل المشرق افتتحت مع تأسيس “شركة الهند الشرقية” في العام 1603م في “خان البرغل” وأول قنصلية هولندية كانت في العام 1607م، لقد عرفت الخانات أحياناً بأسماء الجاليات التي سكنتها مثل “خان البنادقة” و”خان الفرنسيس” وغيرها. لقد زاد عدد الخانات حتى فترة متأخرة عن 150 خاناً بقي الكثير منها إلى اليوم ففي مركز أسواق المدينة هناك حوالي 27 خاناً.

1. Khan Alwazeer* :  is located in the northeast of the city, and it is one of the biggest caravansaries in the city, dating back to1682 . Its market is known for its remarkable decorations and architectural elements. After the opening of Khan al-Wazeer Street, most of its northern part was removed, and the new buildings blocked its view on the citadel. Believed to be the main souq of cotton products in Aleppo. The amount of damage caused to this khan, as shown in You Tube videos and in pictures, posted by activists and citizen journalists, seems to be very serious and beyond repair, at least the outer buildings.

Khan Al-Wazeer before it was damaged
Khan Al-Wazeer before destruction

Khan Al-Wazeer before destruction

Khan Al-Wazeer before it was damagedKhan Al-Wazeer before it was damaged

Below:  Some artistic features of Khan Al-Wazeer( alisar Iram)

Some artistic feature of Khan Al-Wazeer

Damage to Khan Al-Wazee

Damage to, or destruction of khan Al-Wazeer. These images are taken from videos (You Tube} and photographs posted to Facebook. ( alisar Iram)
2. Khan al-Gumruk*:  is the The largest of Aleppo’s khans and was built in 1574 by the Ottoman governor, Hanzade Mehmet Ibrahim Pasha, in the heart of the covered Aleppo souk. It housed banks, as well as the consulates of French, British and Dutch commerce, and thus became the centre for foreign trading and diplomacy. Gumruk translates to “customs”, which perhaps accurately describes the function of Khan al-Gumruk in 1574 when it was frequented by foreign merchants. Khan al-Gumruk continues to house approximately 250 shops to this day, mostly specialising in textiles. The damage to Khan Al-Jumruk and its souk is not possible to assess correctly at the present because of the fighting. But I do remember seeing an image posted to Facebook which showed a large hole in *the dome of Khan Al-Jumruk.

Khan Al-Jumruk's Facade

Khan Al-Jumruk’s Facade

Khan Al-Jumruk

Khan Al-Jumruk as it was (Alisar iram)

The impressive iwan and courtyard of Khan al-Jumruk

The impressive iwan and courtyard of Khan al-Jumruk before the fighting. A friend of mine contested the caption of this image, claiming that the courtyard is that of the house of Ajikbash in Judaida Quarter or the House of the Christian Qarali

3. Khan al-Olabia : Its entrance is in the north side, at the point where Suk al-Joukh and the Bath meet Suk Marcopoli. In its northern part, there were the Italian Consulate and the house of the Italian family Marcopoli who had commercial relations with the tradesmen of Aleppo. It is known for its terrace which is constructed in the Italian style.

4. Kahn al-Saboun : Kahn al-Saboun is one of the most beautiful remnants of the Mamluk style. It is ornamented with geometrical inscriptions and Arabic calligraphy. It was built in the 16th century, next to Suk al-Saboun. Khan Al-Saboun

Khan Al-Saboun( Alisar Iram)

Khan Al-Saboun, soap making

Khan Al-Saboun, soap making

5. Khan al-Qadi,one of the oldest khans in Aleppo dating back 1450.

Below Khan Al-Qadi before it was damaged
 Khan Al-Qadi . 6. Khan al-Burghul (or bulgur), built in 1472, hosted the British general consulate of Aleppo until the beginning of the 20th century.

Khan Al-Burghul

Khan Al-Burghul as it used to be

7.  Khan al-Nahhaseen* or the Coppersmiths  Khan , built in 1539. It hosted the general consulate of Belgium during th 16th century. Nowadays, it is known for its traditional and modern shoe-trading shops with 84 stores.

Khan Al-Nahaseen

Khan Al-Nahaseen before

8. Khan al-Shouneh,* built in 1546. Currently functions as a market for trades and traditional handicrafts of Aleppine art. Khan Al-Shouna, souk and building, was one of the loveliest of the khans with very interesting architecture and layout.

Al-Shouna Khan

Al-Shouna Khan

Khan Al-Shuna. Arcade and Iwan. Suuk Khan Al-Shouna was burnt down. I have not been able to get information about the damage to the khan itself

Khan Al-Shuna. Arcade and Iwan. Souk Khan Al-Shouna was burnt down. I have not been able to get information about the damage to the khan itself

9. Khan Al-Harir* is one of the most important khans in Aleppo. It contains many shops and commercial establishments. It trades silk, textile, and many other kinds of cloths manufactured in Aleppo which is known for textile manufacture and which has some of the most important and famous factories in the region. Khan Al-Harir is known for its shops and historical buildings. There is a lobby for the tradesmen who come to make deals to purchase cloth, silk, and textile.The amount of damage caused to Khan Al-Harir is not documented yet.

Khan Al-Harir

Khan Al-Harir. Extent of damage not assessed yet

10. Khan Al-Quds 11. Khan Al-Hibal 12. Khan Al-Bundukiya (Venetians Khan): .The Venetians’ Khan, was home to the consul of Venice and the Venetian merchants. 13. Khan Al-Karkawani*

Karkanawi Khan

Karkanawi Khan

14. Khan Al-Farafira* 15. Khan Al-Halabi* 16.Khan Al-kheish* 17. Khan  Al-tatan (old and new), 19. Khan al-Faransyeen (The Frenchmen Khan), 20. Khan Omar Shaheen, 21. Khan Awj, 22. Khan Altaf, 23. Khan Khayer Bek, 24.Khan Haj Mousa*, 25. Khan Al-Jalabiya*,  26. *Khan Coutrtbak

Khan Courtbak

Khan Courtbak

Khan Haj Mousa before damage

Khan Haj Mousa before damage, damage not assessed

Two damaged Khans whose names were not recorded

Two damaged Khans whose names were not recorded


Aleppo was home to 177 hammams during the medieval period, until the Mongol invasion when many vital structures in the city were destroyed. Nowadays, roughly 18 hammams are operating in the old city.

  • Hammam al-Sultan built in 1211 by Az-Zahir Ghazi.
  • Hammam al-Nahhasin* built during the 12th century near Khan al-Nahhasin.
  • Hammam Al-Nahassin before

    Hammam Al-Nahassin before destruction

  • Hammam al-Bayadah of the Mamluk era built in 1450.
  • Hammam Yalbugha built in 1491 by the Emir of Aleppo Saif ad-Din Yalbugha al-Naseri.[22]
  • Hammam al-Jawhary, hammam Azdemir, hammam Bahram Pasha*, hammam Bab al-Ahmar, etc. Hammam Al-Saraj*
  • Hammam Al-Sarraj

    Hammam Al-Sarraj

  • *Hammam Bab Al-Hadid
  • Hammam Bab Al-Hadid

    Hammam Bab Al-Hadid

    *Hammam Al-Basha

The Old Quarter of Aleppo

The Old quarter of Aleppo was shelled and bombed by the air which caused excessive damage to the unique stone built houses and the vaulted (in parts), paved and atmospheric alleys of the Old city. Many of the houses had intricately made iron gates and lavishly decorated wooden hanging windows (mashrabiyat), not to mention their tranquil shady courtyards with their garden pots , orange trees and trailing jasmine.

What wa and what is

The houses of Old Aleppo

The houses of Old Aleppo

The photograph bottom right shows the terrible distruction of the neghbouthood of the Great mosque

The photograph bottom right shows the terrible destruction of the neighborhood  leading to the Great mosque

The old houses of Aleppo

The old houses of Aleppo

The finality of destruction

The finality of destruction

The old houses

The old houses

Reconstruction in the Bab Al-Nasr neighborhood

Destruction  in the Bab Al-Nasr neighborhood

Al-Farifira neighborhood destroyed

Al-Farifira neighborhood in the Old quarter destroyed

Credits: For many of my images I am indebted to You Tube and the Facebook host specially:

الآثار السورية في خطر


 حماية الآثار السورية

I am,in addition, indebted to Wikipedia, Google images, and the Web at large  for valuable information and more images, also to Arch Net andاكتشف سوريا. In many ways this research is from the Web to the Web, directed at the academy of the Web, if I might say so. I was at times lax in trying hard enough to reference some of my images, owing to the shortage of time and the need to document damage to cultural heritage as quickly as possible. In this context, I would like to add that this documentation is none profit making. Copyright: Alisar Iram. The copyrights belong to the owners of the images. 

About alisariram

I am an artist, a writer and a researcher. I know Arabic and English . I am interested in music and art of every description. I like to describe myself as the embodiment of a harmonious marriage between two cultures which I value and treasure.
This entry was posted in Aleppo, Alisar's notes and articles, Arab Islamic art, Archaeology, architecture, Art, Civilization, Destruction of cities and habitats, photographs, Syria, Syrian Archaeology and antiquities, Syrian Heritage, Syrian people, Syrian regime, The Khans of Aleppo and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bearing witness: the destruction of the Old city of Aleppo, the second oldest city in the world, Part three continued

  1. Amazing, this is a helpful internet site.

  2. nader mahrous says:


  3. alisariram says:

    Reblogged this on alisariram and commented:

    I am reposting my articles on the destruction of Aleppo, published in my blog last year, in support of the campaign #savealeppo

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