It is not often that new chapters open in whatever we do, think, love, dream and desire. I have the feeling that such a chapter has opened for me when I recently heard a story on the city of Aleppo in Northern Syria in the National Public Radio of the US, by Deborah Amos. This is what kick started a process of preliminary research on Aleppo and its secret charms. In what follows, I have assembled some of the results.
Aleppo is a city very near the border of Syria with Turkey, and according to the historians it is on what used to be the silk road. As Gail Simmons writes in her article on the Silk Road, the city’s name “in Arabic its name is Halab, derived from the word for milk as the Prophet Abraham is said to have milked his cow on the Citadel here – it has long been Syria’s prime commercial centre, a major axis on the northerly route of the Silk Road in Syria. Aleppo remained an important metropolis even when, by the 16th century, the opening of new maritime routes between Europe and the Far East saw the eventual decline of the overland Silk Road.”
LIONEL BEEHNER’s article in the New York Times a week ago (24 January 2010) gives an excellent description of the city and its treasures.
In his article for REUTERS, Khaled Yacoub Oweis presents among others, a young chef who returned to Aleppo after spending some years in France.
Lara Dunston & Terence Carter in their article published in the Jazeera Airlines magazine, present one of the city’s most successful restauranteurs, Dala Touma.
The Financial Times have published back in November 2009 an article by Mary Taylor Simeti on Syria’s food. I noted the brain fritters in Smeroud and the visit to the kitchens of the Pistache d’Alep, which make and sell one of the best baklava in the world!
Deborah Amos concludes her story by saying: “When it comes to opening the economy — and the country — it turns out that food is a better draw than ancient history.” Is she right? I do not know, but I will certainly try to find out how good the food is in Aleppo. Especially now that I have established its proximity to Gaziantep, the SE Turkey capital of baklava.