Halab (Aleppo)

Known in English as Aleppo and in Arabic as Halab, Aleppo is one of the oldest cities in the world. Its history dates back to pre-Islamic times when it was an urban center. During the Muslim Abbasid caliphate, Aleppo became a provincial center, and was consequently deprived of any authoritative or administrative powers [1]. In 1260, Aleppo was attacked by the Mongols during their conquest of Syria. Later that year, the Egyptian Mamluks defeated the Mongols, and Aleppo remained under Mamluk rule until it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

Ibn Battuta visited Aleppo en route to the Hijaz, and he found a magnificent city. He quotes his traveling predecessor, Abu ‘l-Husain Ibn Jubair who said ” Honorable is her rank, and far-flung in every age her name, many king who have sought her hand and  privileged her position in all hearts…” [2]. He continues, describing Aleppo’s mosque as “the most splendid of buildings” [3]. This mosque still stands today, and it is a vital part of Aleppo’s religious heritage. Ibn Battuta stayed briefly in Aleppo, before continyuing on to Damascus.

After Syria gained independence in 1946, Aleppo became the economic capital of the country [4]. Aleppo is the second largest city in Syria after Damascus. Recently, with the fighting over Syria’s long standing president Bashar al-Assad, Aleppo has seen harsh violence. The opposition group and the Assad regime have had deadly clashes in the past year. With the Russian Federation consistently expressing opposition to the United Nations against imposing sanctions upon Syria, it does not seem as though the violence will end anytime soon.


[1] Dunn, Ross. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005.

[2] Macintosh-Smith, Tim. The Travels of Ibn Battutah. London: Picador, 2003.

[3] Macintosh-Smith, Tim. The Travels of Ibn Battutah. London: Picador, 2003.

[4] BBC News, “Profile: Aleppo, Syria’s second city.” Last modified July 24, 2012. Accessed August 3, 2012.