By Hani Dweik
I was once told that cities are like women! Each has its taste, shape, scent and beauty.
If this is the case, then Aleppo is no woman! She is a Goddess. An immortal Goddess that managed to travel through time and still looking young and vibrant as a 15 year old who is full of energy and enthusiasm to look for anything new.
The last time; and the only time I was in Aleppo was back in July 2009. I fell in love with that city instantly. I never knew what the secret that this city in particular has!
Is it the charm of the old and ancient houses that each one of them can tell you a thousand stories of its inhabitants? Was it the smell of spices and rose petals in the old Souq? Was it the diversity of people who walks down the street smiling and looking at you with a proud look that says WE ARE FROM ALEPPO … THE GREATEST CITY ON EARTH!
If I was asked to describe the city in one word only, it would be MAGIC!
That is because, while you are there, you would lose track of time. You would never realise that you have spent hours walking in the streets of the city, until your legs can no longer support you.
Then came 2011, and everything was changed.
Aleppo tried to stay out of the conflict as much as she could. But they would not allow her. They dragged her in this hateful conflict, which not only destroyed physical actual structures, but also crushed souls and spirits.
The whole Syrian conflict did not hit, until one morning while having my coffee and watching the news.
The Aleppo Souq; which is the oldest running market in the world and a UNICEF heritage site, was no longer there! It was burned. Destroyed. How could it be?! Who can do such a thing?!
It was that moment when I realised that this, is no ordinary conflict.
The city that was once one of the most important cities on the Silk Road; the city that harboured one of the oldest Synagogues, the city that is famous for its cuisine and music, the city that is famous for its hospitality and welcoming … is no longer there. Instead, it was replaced by rubbles, hate, thirst for destruction and blood.
More and more, I’m convinced that this region is destined to be restless. Aleppo is no exception I’m afraid.
From the beginning of time, the Middle East lived and still lives in turmoil. Jerusalem, Beirut, Baghdad and Aleppo, are just few to mention of cities in the Middle East that bled and still bleeding. Who is responsible for that?!
Well, everybody blames everybody else. Everyone claims they are on the “right side”. Everyone claims that their “God” is better than everyone else’s “God”.
However, in my own “text book”, God is love. God is mercy. God is welcoming.
So obviously I believe in a different God. A God that tells me hate brings hate, while love will certainly bring love.
So here is my message to Aleppo; hold one my beautiful Goddess. The day will come when you will rise and shine again. The day when your music will be the sound to be heard in the streets instead of artillery, the day when spices and roses are the smell in the streets instead of blood and smoke.
So from Jerusalem, Baghdad and Beirut; I send you love.