Aleppo’s Souk: A Tribute

Deep in the caverns of the ancient souk of Aleppo, all senses are engaged. The eyes follow a maze of narrow passageways lined with shops selling anything from textiles to perfume, food, spices, wool and gold. A high-pitched “hee-haw” causes shoppers to disperse, allowing a donkey to pass, laden with goods.

The array of scents and colour beneath the vaulted passages that spread some 10kms is spellbinding. Rows of spices, herbs, both medicinal and culinary, are laid out in vivid displays. You can’t help but marvel at the ancient medicines used to cure ailments, from chronic indigestion to ointments for psoriasis. Much like inside the medina in Tangiers, Souk al-Madina in Aleppo leaves you to meander.

Aleppo Souk
Aleppo Souk

I stop at one of the spice shops, a tiny store filled with produce in boxes and large Hessian bags. I ask the vendor for zaafaran, saffron, knowing that it is inexpensive to buy in the Middle East. He points to a box of yellowish, dried and shrivelled flowers, nothing like what I have seen before. Sensing my perplexed look, he says, “It’s from Syria”. I ask if he has another type of saffron and he quickly adds, “From Iran?” I nod. Apologetically, he tells me that it is four times the price of the Syrian counterpart.

Addesh?” I inquire the price in Arabic, expecting to haggle over an inflated price. The packet is merely the equivalent of $1.00 USD.

Saffron
Iranian saffron from the Aleppo Souk

The souk of Aleppo is the heart and soul of this ancient city, one that has been continuously inhabited for several millennia. Civilisations have come and gone, each leaving its mark for the next generation. Traders have passed through the city along the famed Silk Road. It has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site and has suffered the wrath of recent political unrest, and has been almost totally destroyed by fire.

The inhabitants of Aleppo have always shown resilience of spirit. Buildings can be demolished but the soul of the people cannot be burned down to the ground. Much like its high-perched Citadelle towering in resilience, Aleppo too shall one day return to its glory.

 

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Aleppo’s Souk: A Tribute was last modified: December 20th, 2015 by Corinne Mossati

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Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.