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Travel To Aleppo as a tourist, Syria

After spending 3 great days in Damascus, was it time to travel to northern Syria and to Aleppo, which was before the Syrian Civil war the largest city in Syria.

But to get to Aleppo, did I have to drive along the world´s most dangerous road, the Salamiyah – Ithriya – Khanasser Road, notorious for being attacked by Daesh (ISIS) and Al Qaeda, and getting shut down for days.

And yes, Daesh (ISIS) attacked the road the same day I travel it as well, less than 1hour after I passed by it.

road to Aleppo, the Khanasser Road
Salamiyah – Ithriya – Khanasser Road
old bus wreck on the way to Aleppo
An old burned-out bus, you pass a lot of old destroyed vehicles on this road, even two tanks, military trucks, and a few oil tankers.

The road between the two biggest cities in Syria used to take only 5 hours to drive; however, these days, it will take you between 7 to 9 hours.It´s now really easy to visit Syria; click here to read about the travel guide about how to get the visa in less than 48hours.

Watch this 3min long video that I filmed with my GoPro during my trip to Syria.

Mostly because of the detour you have to take along Salamiyah – Ithriya – Khanasser road  (The highway is off-limits since it goes through deep Al Qaeda land), and there a few compulsory military checkpoints with friendly soldiers who do papers checks. This rarely takes more than a minute or two. UPDATE, the M5 highway to Aleppo reopened in early 2020.

Aleppo City sign
Getting close to Aleppo now.
local kids in Syria
Local kids posing for a photo when having a fast drink stop.

When you finally reach Aleppo, you will go through the broken parts of East Aleppo, the places where some of the most fierce battles in the war happened.

There are three sides to every story: yours, theirs, and the truth somewhere in the middle.

But it doesn’t take long before you notice that only a small part of Aleppo is destroyed; as soon as you reach central Aleppo, the city is bustling with life, just like Damascus. So too are the shops, restaurants, supermarkets, and parks filled with people.

Yes, There´s a lot of destruction in Aleppo, especially the historical old part of town with the Souq (market) and surrounding areas are mostly destroyed, but rebuilding has already started.

But there’s far less destruction in Aleppo than what the media has been telling us; only about 20% of Aleppo is destroyed or damaged. The city centre is mostly unharmed.

The university is open together with 913! schools, the local trains are running, and there are seven public transportation routes around the city.

Aleppo Train station in 2017
Aleppo Trains station, there’s a local train running, the station opened in 1912! On the 25th of January 2017, train services resumed in Aleppo for the first time in four years.
I love Aleppo sign
The I Love Aleppo sign is a popular selfie spot for locals; notice the rebuilding of the hotel in the background.

As a foreigner in Aleppo, you may think that big parts of the city were off-limits? Not at all! I was granted full access to inside the Aleppo Citadel, to walk around the old Souq, visit the devastating remains of the historic Umayyad Mosque, and to visit East Aleppo. I was in the Citadel before CNN, BBC, etc. This was in 2017 before Syria started to reopen for tourists.

I was even allowed to visit a school that Desh (ISIS) and Al Qaeda used as headquarters.

Ford Mustang in Aleppo Syria
Not what you expect to see in Aleppo? An American Sports car and a palm tree-lined boulevard. You do see a few American sports cars around the streets of Aleppo.
rebuilding syria
Rebuilding is happening all over Aleppo.
The streets of Aleppo 2017
The streets of Aleppo.

I was never told that I could not visit an area, or even told that I wasn’t allowed to take photos!

Before the war in the Old City of Aleppo is one of the highlights of every trip to Syria; it was even added to the UNESCO world heritage list all the way back in 1986!

Aleppo citadel in 2017
The Aleppo Citadel from the eastern side. There are tons of photos from the Citadel further down on this post.
Me in Aleppo Syria 2017
Me leaving the Citadel, I’m probably the most obvious looking tourist in all of Syria. Notice that the restaurant on the far right side of the photo is open again!

From the UNESCO website:

Located at the crossroads of several trade routes from the 2nd millennium B.C., Aleppo was ruled successively by the Hittites, Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols, Mamelukes and Ottomans. The 13th-century citadel, 12th-century Great Mosque and various 17th-century madrasas, palaces, caravanserais and hammams all form part of the city’s cohesive.

It´s heartbreaking to walk around the Old City of Aleppo and see all the destruction that happens here. But where there’s sorrow, there´s hope.
A few shopkeepers in the old Souq are working every day and night to rebuild (in the original style) and reopen their shops, and there are stonemasons working at the entrance of Aleppo Citadel, the jewel of the Middle East.

So where is Aleppo actually? Aleppo is located in the northwestern part of Syria. only about 30 miles (50 km) south of the Turkish border.

The Remains of The Old Souq.

the old souq in Aleppo in 2017
From Inside the Souq, most of it looks like this part.
Aleppo souq in 2017
But luckily, so are some parts of the Souq almost untouched.
rebuilding Syria
Father and son cleaning out the damage to their shop in the old Souq.
Aleppo Souq getting rebuilt
Some shops are almost rebuilt, notice that it’s rebuilt in the original style.
exploring the ruins of Aleppo
I like exploring!
old hell canon bombs laying around in Aleppo 2017
But when exploring, you have to be careful; here, there is left behind hell canon bombs from the terrorists.

Umayyad Mosque, The Great Mosque Of Aleppo.

The Umayyad Mosque was the largest and oldest mosque in Aleppo; it dated back to the year 715 and was one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, especially because its minaret was considered to be a national treasure, but unfortunately, it was blown up in on 24 April 2013 by Al Nusra (Al Queada).

The whole mosque is now planned to be rebuilt and restored to its former glory.

The destroyed Aleppo Grand Mosque 2017
The entrance to the Grand Mosque, the Minerat, used to stand on the right side.
Aleppo Grand Mosque entrance
The broken entrance
inside Aleppo Grand Mosque in 2017
The courtyard, the Minaret, used to be at the back left corner.
Not much damage inside Aleppo Grand Mosque in 2017
There´s less damage inside than I feared.
aleppo grand Mosque courtyard in 2017
From the courtyard.

Aleppo Citadel after the war.

The Aleppo Citadel, a UNESCO world heritage site, was a proud treasure for the whole of the Middle East before the war.

It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.

Aleppo International Airport reopened on 21 December 2020, with weekly flights to Cairo, Beirut and Erbil.

It has been used by and survived through many of the greatest civilizations in history, from the Greeks, Romans, Mongolians to the Ottomans, and it´s still standing now after the war.

It´s badly dammed inside, but restoration has already started. And it shouldn’t take many years before it’s back to its former glory and open once again to hoards of tourists.

I was granted full access to inside the citadel.
Aleppo Citadel in 2017

Aleppo Citadel from the western side.

Aleppo citadel in 2017 young school kids
School kids are back visiting the Citadel, Girls choose themselves if they want to cover their hair or not in Syria.
young Syrian kids in front of Aleppo Citadel 2017
School kids are back visiting the Citadel.
inscription over the Entrance to Aleppo Citadel
The inscription over the Entrance gate is undamaged.
The lion statue at the entrance is undamaged.
Undamaged part of Aleppo Citadel in Syria
aleppo citadel in 2017
walkway trough the citadel
inside Aleppo Citadel
The walkway up to the mosque
aleppo citadel
The place where some of the oldest excavation has taken place.
Mosque inside Aleppo Citadel
The mosque inside is not damaged too badly.
Inside Aleppo Citadel in 2017
The view from the top of the Minaret to the mosque.
Aleppo Citadel in Syria Travel Guide
Panoramic view over Aleppo Citadel in Syria
Overlooking Aleppo in Syria
Panoramic view of Aleppo in Syria

Daily Life In Aleppo Ala 2017.

The daily life in Aleppo these days is very normal once again after the government regained control over the city. While walking around central Aleppo, will you wonder if there ever was a war happening here.

Street of Aleppo
Locals on the streets.
Sexy underwear shop in Aleppo Syria
Fancy some sexy underwear?
young girls in Aleppo
Young girls playing in the park
local kids in parks in Aleppo
“No freedom,” the media tells us.

During Syria´s national football time, everyone gathers to watch it. I watched the football game between Syria and Australia at a public watching inside a basketball court.

Syrian football fans
Syrians’ love football
Watching football game in Aleppo Syria
When Syria scores

watching football in Aleppo Syria

Local girls in Aleppo Syria
Beautiful girls love football too.
Green parks in Aleppo Syria
The central park in Aleppo
View from my hotel in Aleppo Syria
Clean and green
pizza and beer in Aleppo in Syria
Locals enjoying pizza and beer.
Christian Church in Aleppo in Syria
Christian Churches are open.

East Aleppo after the war.

The most destruction is located in this area, but even here have rebuilding begun, and we all remember reading about the last school that got bombed? It looks like a normal school to walk down to the basement and see ISIS flags.

Locals rebuilt east part of Aleppo in Syria
Streets of the Eastern part of town, people caring building material back home.
Locals in Aleppo Syria
An old man blowing a kiss in east Aleppo
Old school used as a terroist base in Aleppo, damaged from airstrike
That´s how a school looks like after it got hit by an airstrike.
ISIS sign in Aleppo in a White Helmet building
But the school was used by ISIS as a headquarters.

So do you still think Aleppo is a city in ruins? I have some hundred more photos from my visit to the city, and I will be posting more photos in the near future. I will also include the photos from the children’s school that was used by Daesh (Isis) and Al Queada as headquarters in a general post about my visit to Syria soon.

After 3 eye-opening days in Aleppo, was it time to head back down to central Syria and Homs.

Read about my trip to Krak des Chevaliers & The Valley Of Christians by clicking this link.

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In October 2017 I did visit, Aleppo once the biggest city in Syria as a tourist. #Syria #aleppo #middleast #UNESCO #travel #traveltips
In October 2017, I did visit, Aleppo once the biggest city in Syria as a tourist. #Syria #aleppo #middleast #UNESCO #travel #traveltips

John Smith

Wednesday 22nd of April 2020

Syria is a country exhausted by the war! I am happy to read your blog! It is scary to look at these ruined houses and at the same time children walking on the street! Thanks for sharing!

Robert Young

Thursday 6th of February 2020

I loved your reporting on Damascus. Is it possible to study Arabic there?

Christian L.

Thursday 20th of February 2020

Should soon be possible agian.

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