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Aleppo

ALEPPO

The principal city of northern Syria.

Syria's second-largest metropolis after Damascus, Aleppo has long been a prominent economic, cultural, and political center, and, with a population of 4.2 million (2002 estimate), it ranks among the leading cities of the Middle East. Located about 70 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea, at an elevation of 1,280 feet (390 m), Aleppo has a moderate climate, with short, cool, wet winters and long, dry, hot summers. Its surrounding region, parts of which are semiarid, supports extensive agriculture as well as the raising of livestock.


The majority of Aleppo's townspeople are Sunni Muslims, but they live alongside substantial numbers of Christians affiliated with various churches. Tens of thousands of Armenian refugees from Anatolia settled in Aleppo during World War I and strengthened the traditionally prominent Christian presence. The local Jewish community, whose roots went back to pre-Islamic times, also grew during the modern period, but the ArabIsraeli hostilities caused most of its members to leave the country around 1948. The remaining Jewish presence, which continued to dwindle thereafter, came to a historic end with the departure of the last Jews in 1994.


During the period of Ottoman rule in Syria (15161918), Aleppo served as the administrative capital of a large province that extended over much of northern Syria as well as parts of southern Anatolia. Ottoman governors dispatched from Istanbul administered the affairs of the area with the cooperation of Aleppo's local Muslim elite. The city's politics were characterized by the competition for influence among local powerful figures and by periodic local clashes with the Ottoman authorities. The unusually troubled years from 1770 to 1850 witnessed violent factional strife, popular unrest, and occupation by the Egyptian army (18321840). In the calmer period that followed, more orderly Ottoman control was restored, and the community began to experience the benefits of European-inspired innovations, including modern schools, improved sanitation and health care, street lighting, printing, newspapers, and wheeled transport. The local notable families integrated themselves more fully into the Ottoman provincial administration at this time and strengthened their power by acquiring large amounts of rural land.

With the establishment of modern Syria in 1920, Aleppo continued to serve as the seat of government for the surrounding region. Its Sunni landowning families, with their counterparts from Damascus, dominated national politics during the French mandate (19201946) and the first two decades of independence. As of the 1960s, however, the old landed notables began to be displaced by a new political elite composed of men of provincial and minority origins (particularly Alawi). Land-reform measures resulted in the expropriation of the great agricultural estates and helped to break the political back of the Sunni elite. In the 1970s and 1980s, opposition in Aleppo and other Sunni centers to the new political structure gave rise to clashes of Muslim organizations with Hafiz al-Asad's regime.

The modern period also transformed Aleppo's commercial role. Since the sixteenth century, the city had been a leading center of regional and international trade, with a network of markets that included cities in Anatolia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Arabia, Egypt, Europe, and Asia. In the nineteenth century, however, much of the region's external trade, now oriented increasingly toward Europe, shifted from inland cities such as Aleppo to the Mediterranean coastal towns. The end of the Ottoman Empire (1918) cut Aleppo off from some of its traditional markets in the region and narrowed still further its commercial horizons. The city's manufacturing sector, however, remained strong, and today, as a major industrial center, Aleppo produces fine silk and cotton fabric, soaps and dyes, processed foods, leather goods, and articles of gold and silver.

Like other major Middle Eastern cities, Aleppo grew dramatically during the modern period, especially since around 1950, when the migration from rural regions to urban centers began to assume massive proportions. Its population, about 90,000 in 1800, had risen modestly to 110,000 in 1900 and to 320,000 in 1950, but it then increased sharply by 1.5 million in the next forty-five years.

With this population growth came a corresponding physical expansion. Beginning in the 1870s, vast new areas developed all around the old historic city, thereby giving birth to modern Aleppo. The new districts, built on a European model of apartment buildings and wide streets laid out in a regular grid pattern, contrasted sharply with the dense environment of courtyard houses and narrow, winding alleyways in the old parts. As the better-off townspeople gradually moved out of the old city, it deteriorated into an overcrowded habitat for the urban poor and for rural migrants. This exodus represented the rejection of an environment that had come to be regarded as backward and unsuited to modern living. The old city has nevertheless remained among the best preserved and most handsome of the traditional Middle Eastern cities, and since the 1970s a movement to conserve its historic monuments and urban fabric has taken hold, although with still unresolved debates over proposed rehabilitation plans.

Aleppo, which has remained one of Syria's leading centers of cultural life, is particularly renowned, in the country and wider region, for its role as a creative center of traditional music. The muwashshah, a song traced back to Muslim Spain, has been a local specialty; hundreds of these vocal piecesnow known as muwashshahat halabiyya were composed or preserved in the city and diffused from there throughout the region. Ottoman music has also been popular, and Turkish influences continue to distinguish local approaches to music theory. Many accomplished Arab musicians have hailed from Aleppo, among them the violin virtuosos Sami al-Shawwa (18871960) and Tawfiq al-Sabbagh (18901955) and the popular singer Sabah Fakhri (1933). The most influential figure was Ali alDarwish (18841952), whose encyclopedic knowledge of the Arab and Ottoman musical systems and repertoires, derived from thirty years of travel in the Middle East and North Africa, has profoundly marked the region's musical scene and scholarship.

see also sunni islam.

Bibliography

Gaube, Heinz, and Wirth, Eugen. Aleppo. Wiesbaden, Germany: L. Reichert, 1984.

Marcus, Abraham. The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Abraham Marcus

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Aleppo

Aleppo (əlĕp´ō) or Alep (əlĕp´), Arabic Haleb, city (1993 est. pop. 1,500,000), capital of Aleppo governorate, NW Syria. It is a commercial and industrial center located in a semidesert region where irrigation is used to grow grains, cotton, and fruit. The city is also a market for wool and hides. Manufactures include silk, printed cotton textiles, dried fruits and nuts (especially pistachios), and cement. Aleppo is a transportation hub; it has an international airport and is connected by rail with Damascus and the Mediterranean port of Latakia, as well as with Turkey and Iraq.

The city was inhabited perhaps as early as the 6th millenium BC In the 14th–13th cent. BC it was controlled by the Hittites. Later, Aleppo was a key point on the major caravan route across Syria to Baghdad. From the 9th to the 7th cent. BC it was mostly ruled by Assyria and was known as Halman. It was later (6th cent. BC) held by the Persians and Seleucids. Seleucus I (d. 280 BC) rebuilt much of the city, renaming it Berea.

The city's commercial importance was enhanced by the fall of Palmyra in AD 272, and by the 4th cent. Aleppo was a major center of Christianity. A flourishing city of the Byzantine Empire, it was taken without a struggle by the Arabs in 638; subsequently, in the late 11th cent., it was captured by the Seljuk Turks. Crusaders besieged Aleppo without success in 1118 and 1124, and Saladin captured it in 1183, making it his stronghold. The city was held briefly by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan (1260) and by Timur (1401); in 1517 the Ottoman Empire annexed Aleppo, which then became a great commercial city. From 1832 to 1840 it was held by Muhammad Ali of Egypt.

In the late 19th cent., Aleppo's importance declined as Damascus grew and the Suez Canal and other trade routes were developed. The city revived under French control after World War I and continued to prosper after Syrian independence (1941). The Univ. of Aleppo (1960), Aleppo Institute of Music (1955), and Muslim theological schools are in the city. Points of interest include the Byzantine citadel (12th cent.) and the Great Mosque (715). The old section of the city, including the Great Mosque, was severely damaged by fighting in during Syria's civil war.

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Aleppo

Aleppo (Halab) City in nw Syria; Syria's second-largest city (after the capital Damascus. Like Damascus, it has claims to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. A part of Syria since 1924, Aleppa has a 12th-century citadel, the Great Mosque (715), and a covered bazaar more than 800m (2625ft) long. Industries: cotton products, silk weaving, dried nuts and fruit. Pop. (1994) 1,542,000.

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Aleppo

Aleppo an ancient city in northern Syria, which was formerly an important commercial centre on the trade route between the Mediterranean and the countries of the East.

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Aleppo

Aleppo •capo • Gestapo •Aleppo, depot •downtempo, tempo, uptempo •Expo •cheapo, Ipoh, peep-bo, repo •hippo •hypo, typo •oppo, topo, troppo •compo • Limpopo

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