What is the Aleppo Citadel?

Aleppo Citadel Gate, Aleppo, Syria - courtesy jamesdale10 - CC-BY

Aleppo Citadel Gate, Aleppo, Syria - courtesy jamesdale10 - CC-BY

The Aleppo Citadel is a large fortified medieval palace in the center of the old city of Aleppo. It is one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. The Citadel was originally a Neo-Hittite acropolis built on a natural hill. The citadel is the original ‘tell’ (hill created over time by settlement) of Aleppo which, which has evidence of occupation dating back to at least the 4th millennium BC.

While the Citadel Hill has a long history of use, it rose in importance during and after the Crusades.  Between 1193 and 1215, Citadel construction was responsible for structures that create the Citadel in its current form. During the Ottoman period, the military role of the Citadel slowly diminished as the city started to grow outside the city walls, taking form as a commercial city.

The only entrance to the Citadel is through the outer tower in the south. This defended the arched stone bridge, which covered the 80 foot deep moat. This gateway is almost a castle in itself. When you go in, there is a bent entrance that goes right, left, left, right, right, and then left again, in order to slow down attackers. It is pitch dark in the entryway which creates contrast between light and dark so that it would be difficult for attackers to see.

Within the Citadel, The Ayyubid palace has been restored, Citadel slope erosion is being taken care of and the moat’s drainage system is being improved. But even with all of that, the Citadel is little more than an empty shell.

It was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 and its imposing presence forms the center of the city

Today, the citadel is a tourist attraction and a site of archaeological research. It is also often used for musical concerts or cultural events.

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