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- For other meanings, see Aleppo (disambiguation). Halab redirects here; for other meanings, see Halab (disambiguation).
Aleppo (or Halab Arabic: حلب", ) is a city in northern Syria, capital of the Aleppo Governorate. The city has a population of around 1.9 million, making it the second largest city in the country after Damascus. It is one of the oldest cities in the region, known to antiquity as Khalpe, Khalibon, to the Greeks as Beroea (Veroea), and to the Turks as Halep; during the French Mandate, Alep was used. It occupies a strategic trading point midway between the sea and the Euphrates; initially, it was built on a small group of hills in a wide fertile valley on both sides of the river Quweiq (قويق). The province or governorate extends around the city for over 16,000 km² and has around 3.7 million inhabitants.
The main role of the city was as a trading place, as it sat at the crossroads of two trade routes and mediated the trade from India, the Tigris and Euphrates regions and the route coming from Damascus in the South, which traced the base of the mountains rather than the rugged seacoast. Although trade was often directed away from the city for political reasons, it continued to thrive until the Europeans began to use the Cape route to India and later to utilise the route through Egypt to the Red Sea. Since then the city has declined and its chief exports now are the agricultural products of the surrounding region, mainly wheat and cotton, pistachios, olives and sheep.
The name Halab is of obscure origins. Some proposed that Halab means the metals of iron or copper in Amorite languages since it was a major source of these metals in antiquity. Halaba in Aramaic means white, referring to the color of soil and marble abundant in the area. Another proposed etymology is that the name Halab means "gave out milk," coming from the ancient tradition that Abraham gave milk to travelers as they moved throughout the region. The colour of his cows was ashen (Arab. shaheb), therefore the city is also called "Halab ash-Shahba'" (he milked the ash-coloured).
Because the modern city occupies its ancient site, Aleppo has scarcely been touched by archaeologists. The site has been occupied from around 5000 BC, as excavations in Tallet Alsauda show. It grew as the capital of the kingdom of Yamkhad until the ruling Amorite Dynasty was overthrown around 1600 BC. The city remained under Hittite control until perhaps 800 BC before passing through the hands of the Assyrians and the Persian Empire and being captured by the Greeks in 333 BC, when Seleucus Nicator renamed the settlement Beroea, after Beroea in Macedon. The city remained in Greek or Seleucid hands until 64 BC, when Syria was conquered by the Romans.
The city remained part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire before falling to Arabs under Khalid ibn al-Walid in 637; in the 10th century a resurgent Byzantine Empire briefly regained control from 974 to 987. The city was twice besieged by Crusaders—in 1098 and in 1124—but was not conquered. It came under the control of Saladin and then the Ayyubid Dynasty from 1183 and remained in Kurdish hands until taken by the Mongols in 1260. Returning to native control in 1317, decades after the Battle of Ain Jalut, it became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517, when the city had around 50,000 inhabitants.
On August 9, 1138, a deadly earthquake ravaged the city and the surrounding area. Although estimates from this time are very unreliable, it is believed that 230,000 people died, making it the fourth deadliest earthquake in recorded history.
The city remained Ottoman until the empire's collapse, but was occasionally riven with internal feuds as well as attacks of the plague and later cholera from 1823. By 1901 its population was around 125,000. The city revived when it came under French colonial rule but slumped again following the decision to give Antioch to Turkey in 1938-1939.
Aleppo was named by the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) as the capital of Islamic culture in 2006.
There is a relatively clear division between old and new Aleppo. The older portions were contained within a wall, 3 miles in circuit with seven gates. The medieval castle in the city -- known as the Citadel of Aleppo -- is built atop a huge, partially artificial mound rising 50 m above the city. The current structure dates from the 13th century and had been extensively damaged by earthquakes, notably in 1822.
As an ancient trading centre, Aleppo also has impressive suqs (shopping streets) and khan (commercial courtyards). The city was significantly redesigned after World War II; in 1952 the French architect Andre Gutton had a number of wide new roads cut through the city to allow easier passage for modern traffic. In the 1970s, large parts of the older city were demolished to allow for the construction of modern flat blocks.
 Population and religion
While more than 70% of Aleppo's inhabitants are Sunni Muslims (mainly Arabs, but also Kurds, and other diverse ethnicities relocated there during the Ottoman period, most notably Circassians, Adyghe, Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgars, Turks, Kabardins, Chechens, and others), Aleppo is home to one of the richest and most diversified Christian communities of the Orient. Christians belonging to a dozen different congregations (with prevalence of the Armenian and Syriac Orthodox Church and other Orthodox denominations) represent between 15% and 20% of its population, making it the city with the second biggest Christian community in the Middle East after Beirut, Lebanon.
The city had a large Jewish population in ancient times, traditionally since the period of King David. The great synagogue housed the famous Aleppo codex, dating back to the ninth century. The codex is now housed in Jerusalem. The vast majority of Aleppo's 10,000 Jewish residents moved abroad after the creation of the state of Israel due to various social and political pressures. Only a dozen Jewish families still live in Aleppo today, and the synagogue remains virtually empty. At one point it was a thriving Jewish community, especially under the guidance of the Chief Rabbi Jacob Dwek and his brother in law Rabbi Ezra Soued. Their offspring have since settled around the world in such places as the United States, Brazil and other countries, by dint of the efforts of the Canadian musician Judy Feld Carr, which secured the rescue of almost all Syrian Jews from the pressures of the Syrian government and population.
The city has many mosques including the Madrasa Halawiya. A temple that once stood on the site was rebuilt as Aleppo's great Byzantine cathedral founded by Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, which contains a tomb associated with Zachary, father of John the Baptist. During the Crusades, when the invaders pillaged the surrounding countryside, the city's chief judge converted St. Helena's cathedral into a mosque, and in the middle of the 12th century the famous leader Nur al-Din founded the madrasa or religious school that has encompassed the former cathedral. The Jami al-Kabir or "Great Mosque" was originally built by the Umayyads, although the present structure begun for Nur al-Din dates from 1158 and a rebuilding after the Mongol invasion of 1260.
 Notable people
- See also: Rulers of Aleppo
- Paul of Aleppo, 17th century Archdeacon of Aleppo, traveler and chronicler.
- Chessplayer and writer Phillip Stamma was born in 1705 .
- Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1977.
- Muhammed Faris (born 1951), first Syrian cosmonaut.
- Moustapha Akkad, film producer and director, born in 1935.
- George Tutunjian– Famous Armenian Revolutionary Songs performer.
- Levon Ter-Petrossian, former president of the Republic of Armenia.
 Photo gallery
Citadel of Aleppo is the most famous monument in the city
 External links
- Lynn Simarski, 'The lure of Aleppo" history and architecture.
- Armenian history and presence in Aleppo
- University of Aleppo