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Published: October 21st 2008
Is that a camel's head for sale? The souks of Allepo
Our first stop of the morning was a local juice bar - something that seems very popular in Syria. We walked as a group to the juice bar for our morning breakfast of juice and cheese bread before meeting our local tour guide named Ahmed.
Ahmed was a little old man wearing a white hat and a tattered old blue suit. He had a very strong English accent and spoke in very clipped tones, enunciating every syllable as he spoke. He took us for a tour of the city showing us what he called the ‘New Town’ - but in actual fact - looked very old and weary to me. As we walked through the town, I wasn’t surprising to discover that we were the source of some amused stares from the locals, both men & children included - and the source of some bemused stares from the women & young girls as they walked past with their covered burkas.
Shopkeepers would wave and ask where we were from; store holders selling candy would scoop up handfuls of sweets and offer them to us as we
Breakfast at the Juice Bar
Me & Mel in front of the juice bar
walked with Ahmed, who explained the sights as we walked along. The streets were filled with local shops - small make shift sheds, each covered by a metal roller door. Inside the shops were an assortment of things for sale - anything from olive soap to rubber tyres - but everything seemed to be covered with a fine layer of dirt, something that seemed to cover the entire city in a fine mist as the day slowly started to heat up.
We walked throughout the city - visiting side streets; old hamams (Turkish bath houses) & historic side streets - things that we wouldn’t have been able to see if we walked through the area on our own. He took us into the heart of the souks of Allepo - known as the longest covered souk in the world to show us the inner workings of the souks. The souks of Allepo were vastly different to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. The latter is now so over-run with tourists that it is now more of a constant battle with touts selling you a carpet or an extra pashmina at exaggerated prices rather than a place to soak up a
The souks of Allepo
Known as the worlds longest covered souk
truly historic experience and to provide the visitor with a glimpse of everyday local life.
In Allepo as we wandered around the souks - it became very evident that this was a living market for the locals. Many people crammed into the souks to buy their spices, material, food and assorted items - whilst at the same time giving the tourists something to see. It was nowhere near as touristy as Istanbul, with nowhere near the amount of ‘touristy’ things to purchase - but as always there is the extra pashmina; that extra fez hat and that must have Yasar Araft looking head scarf that needs to be purchased to be classified a bona fide tourist.
There always has to be a scary moment for all tourists - something that shocks you in a way that only true ‘culture shock’ can scare. For the group as a whole - this would have to have been the meat market. For anyone that has travelled through Asia (and more specially China & Hong Kong) - the sight of hanging meet for sale is no scary thing. In the souks - I found something I never would have expected to see….The
Side street shops in Allepo
An assortment of teas for sale in one of the side shops in Allepo
hanging head of a camel and its meat for sale. In actual fact - I couldn’t identify the animal I took a picture of - it wasn’t until closer examination later (and a tip from one of my group - who asked the stall holder) that I discovered what it really was.
Some stall holders didn’t want us taking photos of their meat (maybe because it was too scary to be immortalised in a photo) but we saw enough to turn some in the group vegetarian for the rest of the trip (or so they claim). A tub full of freshly washed intestine, neatly piled lamb innards and other unnamed body parts and full carcasses (with just the bones…soup anyone??). The piece de resistance was the stall of chicken pieces for sale outside the souk - along the dirt road by the traffic with its fresh (or so I hope) neat stack of chicken parts - all covered in a fine layer of traffic dust….Yummo!!!
It was the end of Ramadan during our visit, so it was thronging with people buying sweet biscuits, cakes and fresh nuts that would be used to offer to visitors during the Ramadan
Biscuits for sale
Biscuits were for sale on almost every street corner to celebrate the end of Ramadan
holiday period - There was a mad frenzy as people rushed around to gather everything they would need before everything shut for the holiday period.
We left a little over 1pm after our tour of the souks & city sights to get to our next destination - Crac des Chavaliers.
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