Inside the Citadel there is a lot of rubble and ruins. Here you can see the Royal Palace, Mosque of Abraham, Great Mosque, Hammam of Nour ad-Deen, a concrete amphitheatre, a café and a small museum.
Don’t miss the throne room (I almost did), which was built by the Mamluks. The room has a painted wooden ceiling, a floor with patterns made of marble in different colours.
No-one visiting Aleppo could miss the Citadel. There it sits, atop its great mound where, in places, the grassy accretion of centuries is slowly being peeled away to reveal the stone-faced glacis beneath. Massive, impregnible - that you expect. What is more surprising is how elegant and restrained it is - the arches of the bridge across the moat, the monumental square entrances, the banded black and white stonework around the windows.
Once inside things become something of a jumble, the twists and turns of the defensive entry passage opening out at the top to a mix of reconstucted buildings and piles of apparent rubble. The view over the city is magnificent however.
The Citadel of Aleppo can be seen from far away as it is built on a 50 metre high mound. The mound is a natural hill even though it doesn’t look like that.
For a long time the mound was a place fro worship and religion, but in the 10th century the hill started to be fortified. During the time of the crusaders the citadel was strengthened and it was an important point for the Muslims.
To enter the Citadel you first pass through an outer defensive tower and then walk up the steps of the entry bridge to an impressive portal in the monumental gateway.
It was not easy for enemies to conquer the citadel. When they came up the bridge people in the monumental gateway could pour down boiling oil over them and meet them with a rain of arrows.
From the Citadel you will have a great view over the city. From the place where the café is you will have a good view.
The citadel closes already at 6 pm. When I visited in July 2002 I paid 300 SP to enter. 300 SP was that year the normal price for a tourist when visiting touristattractions. In 2004 the price had been lowered to 150 SP.
The Citadel is perhaps Aleppo's best known historical attraction - and for good reason. It stands high and mighty on the eastern end of the old city area keeping watch over the city.
Standing on a strategic, natural mound, it is as historic as Aleppo itself. It is believed that the mound was a place of worship before it became a fortification with a more military function. The Seleucids are thought to have built the first defensive structures in around 300 BC. But much of what could be seen today were built during the Mamluk rule (1250-1517 AD). The Citadel played an important role during the time of the Crusades serving as power base for the Muslims.
Allot at least one hour for exploration. Some of the more interesting features of the Citadel are the stepped bridge entrance, the steel plated doors, the cistern and underground prison, the remains of an Ayyubid Palace with its colorful entrance, and a 13th century grand mosque which has been restored.
Around this grand mosque is a cafe where you could hang out for a while and soak in the great views. Not surprisingly, the Citadel is one of the most strategic places in Aleppo to take aerial photos of this historical city.
During my visit in early December 2007, the area surrounding the Citadel is being dolled up for tourists and cafés have sprung up and are doing brisk business. It's a great place to chill out after a tour of the Citadel and the souq area.
The Citadel Gate was obviously the weak spot and during various early medieval invasions it was breached. However, by the early 13th century, Ayyubid ruler Sultan al-Zahir al-Ghazi of Aleppo (1186-1216) built the enormous entrance gate and arched bridge that enters what was then a small Muslim city. A complex defense plan was designed for entrance into the Citadel, as assault would have to break down 3 iron doors and then change direction 6 times through a series of 90 degree turns while experiencing hot liquids being poured through the slit openings on the upper floors. This marvelous medieval design made the Citadel of Aleppo perhaps the most defensible in the region. In 1986, UNESCO designated the Aleppo Citadel a World Heritage Site.
The Village in the citadel was complete with water cisterns, grain storage, workshops for all the aspects of medieval life. One need rarely leave the village unless perhaps to work in the field of agriculture in the valley below. Indeed even during the height of battle for control of the Citadel, life could continue undisturbed by activity outside the walls. The Citadel has several mosques and numerous buildings with artful domes, but it also has almost bucolic like country streets with abandoned workshops on either side. Currently, there's a cafe and bookstore on top, but I wasn't impressed with either of these places.
The dry moat around the Citadel in the center of Aleppo is a wonder in itself. Originally, the hill on which a neo-Hittite acropolis and temple were built was a natural defense, but between the 10th and 16th centuries various Muslim empires improved the fortifications such that the moat is now largely paved in a steep slope up to the Citadel itself. The moat was filled with water at one time. As the city grew outside the walls, the importance of the Citadel as a place of residence declined. We didn't walk the entirety of the elliptical base of the hill, but stayed mostly on the west, north, and southern sides. During the Crusader and Mongol invasions, the Citadel often held enemies at bay while the surrounding town was sacked, but as cannon and explosives were developed beginning in the 15th century, no amount of fortification could make it satisfactory for defense. But, in the days of medieval siege warfare, generals arriving on the scene must have pondered in wonder how such a hill and structure could be invaded.
The Citadel represented a tranquil place of safety on a hill, and so acquired aspects of spirtual loftiness as well. Interestingly, the Main Citadel block contains not only enormous military defense capability but rises to a tranquil place of worship as well. Entrance to each level requires climbing stairs and making turns, such that higher levels can peer down upon and assault invaders to the very entrance of the domed mosque at the top. Natural light filters through the dome, reminding one that even as the most terrible assault raged outside, the ruler could continue to meditate his connection with God. The geometric multi-colored stone work is very impressive as is the careful attention to detail in terms of window placement.
But such grim efficiency did not preclude decoration and reminders of the presence of God. The nail-heads on the doors themselves beautifully worked, the lintels have comic or enigmatic carvings on them - intertwined serpents, a pair of lions confronting one another, one smiling the other weeping, and above all there are the fine Kufic inscriptions calling upon the power and the mercy of Allah. The interior of the Citadel shows all too clearly how it has been ravaged by enemies (the Mongols invaded it twice) and shattered by earthquakes (that of 1822 was particularly devastating).
The main reason to visit Aleppo is to see the wonderful old citadel that sits on a hill in the middle of the city which is now the biggest city in Syria and i believe that it has been inhabited for 7,000 years. The citadel is enclosed by a 5 km wall with 9 gates and the present construction was completed 800 years ago. Be careful not to get lost inside while wandering around the narrow alleyways.
Aleppo's citadel is the biggest in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It stands atop an imposing hill just to the east of the old city and commands spectacular views over all of Aleppo.
This site has been important for at least 3,000 years. The first major structure built here was a temple dating back to the 10th century BC. The first fortifications were erected by the Seleucids around 350 BC. The citadel was a mliitary headquarters for the Muslims during the 12th century in their wars with the Crusaders, and its defenses were strengthened during this period with a moat and with stone cladding on the lower slopes of the hill. Further fortifications were added by the Mamluks from the 13th to 16th centuries. The citadel was only successfully stormed once in its history, by Tamerlane's Mongol army in 1400.
Today the massive walls encircling the citadel present an imposing sight as you crane your neck to look up at them.
You enter the citadel across an entrance bridge over the now dry moat. You then climb a passageway through a monumental gateway. Inside the citadel there are numerous buildings, including a palace, two mosques and an amphitheatre.
Opening hours: winter 9am-4pm, summer 9am-6pm. Closed Tuesdays.
Abraham is said to have camped on this hill and milked his red cow there on his journey from URA to Hauran. But from even earlier the remains of more ancient civilizations have raised the level of this acropolis beneath which so many bloody events have taken place. Fifty meters above the city a ring of crenellated walls and towers rises from a steep glacis, encircling a mass of ruins of every period.
Dominating the whole of Aleppo, the Citadel is one of the most important historic monuments of the old city and one of the middle east's most impressive medieval fortresses. It was also worthy of being listed, along with the Old City of Aleppo, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The natural hill on which it was built rises from the ground like a volcano, and is known to have been inhabited since at least the 16th century BC and probably even earlier, and to have been the site of the Graeco-Roman Acropolis. However, the citadel, as we see it today, was largely constructed in the 12th century AD on the rubble of previous civilisations, from Hittite and Seleucid/Greek to Roman and Byzantine. Several additions to the citadel were later made, most notably the 16th century AD Mamluke palace built over the imposing entrance. A visit to Aleppo is incomplete without a stop at the Citadel, which offers excellent panoramic views over the old city.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: As reported in the media, a section of the wall of the Citadel of Aleppo collapsed on 11th July 2015 in an explosion in an underground tunnel. Both government forces and rebels blamed the other.