Fifty Centuries of Trade in Aleppo Souk

Shopping Essentials

Where: Dry hills of Northern Syria
What’s in Store: Ancient meets modern, reflecting 50 centuries of trading – cotton, grain, olives, sheep,vs western tinned foods
Best Buy: A camel hump. Try explaining that at customs.
Watch out For: The silver tongued trader – they could even sell you a dried donkey skin!

Where It’s At

Archaeologist J Sauvaget wrote “Of all the towns of Syria, it is Aleppo that leaves the profoundest impression upon the visitor”. Cradled in a bowl of dry hills in northern Syria, the city of Aleppo has a grave and dignified front of a traditional Arab city, although it’s rules are more relaxed than neighbouring countries. It’s been a luring point for passing traveller with it’s fine arabic tradition, architecture and trade. Since Roman times, Aleppo has been an important trading centre linking the countries of Asia and the Mediterranean and is though to be the oldest trading town in existence, with some 50 centuries of commerce in it’s rich history. Aleppo has one of the biggest and best souqs in the middle east. National specialities include cotton, grain, pistachios, olives and sheep. Head into the Old City for a glimpse of how life used to be.

Shopper’s Paradise

The labyrinthine covered souk of Aleppo is sovered by stone archways for 20 miles, making this the longest souk in the Middle East. Since the Ottoman years, tiny Suzuki trucks have replaced the tracks of camels through the tiny market alleys, but the din of braying donkeys and shouting traders is timeless in Aleppo. Donkeys and people stream along the crowded streets, and western suited businessmen rub shoulders with bedouins capped in kaffiyas. Pomegranates, camel humps and local goods sit alongside western tinned goods as a sign of changing times.

North of the Citadel leads to the coppersmiths Souk, where hammers can be heard all days as they knock out jugs and pans which will be sold like vegetables based on their weight.
Beware of the silver tongued marketers, a local proverb reads “An Aleppine can sell even a dried donkey skin”.

More Information

Syria Tourism’s guide to Aleppo
A comprensive guide to the mosques, souks, citadel and attractions of the city

The Lure of Aleppo
A cultural guide to the present day city

By Jess Halliday

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