MEMORIES OF SYRIA
Walkable. Magical. Memorable. Lose yourself in the labyrinth of bustling passageways. Chat with the merchants and locals. Memories of Aleppo we won’t soon forget.
OLD ALEPPO, SYRIA
TOURIST HOTEL (New City)
If one word had to describe Aleppo’s Tourist Hotel it would have to be “sparkling”. Other words would include “friendly”, “helpful” and “inexpensive”.
After a less than satisfactory experience at Dar Halabia the night before (see below), we arrived at the Tourist Hotel around noon without reservations and asked Leslie (who speaks English very well) if we might see a room. She hesitated, “the room is not ready”. We told her we understood that it was too early, but if the room was messy we didn’t mind. “The room has no furniture,” she explained. “Every six months we take everything out and wash the walls.” The room gleamed; literally. We talked to others who also reported their rooms were clean-clean.
Some rooms share bathrooms while others have ensuites. We paid a little more for a 3 bed room with ensuite. Room 14 came to approximately $30 US double occupancy per night. The beds were comfortable with foam mattresses. Furniture in the room included night tables with drawers, a wardrobe with plenty of hangers, a coat rack, chairs and desk. The gleaming large bathroom has an open shower area, toilet and sink. Room 14 has a small balcony; other rooms we could see had larger balconies or none – so if it is important ask. Room 14 was one room up from reception and the breakfast room was one floor down from reception (no elevator). The breakfast was simple with real juice, tea, coffee, bread, butter, jams, cheese and olives served family style at a table with other guests. Our morning host was welcoming and a bit of a comedian.
The only downside we could find is that they did not have wifi … at least you know upfront instead of being told “it is not working today”.
The Tourist Hotel is in the New City, approximately a 15 minute walk to the Bab Antakaya gate – the western entrance to the Old City souq.
Contact: Leslie (speaks English)
Walking directions: From the New City clock tower (intersection of Sh al-Maari and Sh Bab al-Faraj) walk west along Sh al-Maari to the second street on right, Sh ad-Dala. The Tourist Hotel is approximately one and a half blocks along Sh ad-Dala on the left just across from Spring Flower Hostel.
DAR HALABIA (Old City)
Not recommended. This hotel is listed by Lonely Planet and is marked “our pick”. It would seem that since getting that designation, the hotel sees no reason to make any further effort; very disappointing.
If one word had to describe Dar Halabia it would be “shabby” and we are not overly picky. Prior to booking the Dar Halabia, we emailed and asked, among other questions, if there was wifi in the rooms. The response was, “Wifi in all hotel.” Based on their answers, we booked. On arrival we were offered our choice of a room on the second floor or one down the street. We asked which receptionist which one he would choose, he said upstairs, Room 12. There was garbage uncollected in the room and bathroom. The bathroom, with a door which refused to stay closed, was dirty, particularly the toilet seat which had not been cleaned thoroughly ( I had to clean it before it could be used). This lack of cleanliness continued through the room with grungy handles on the closet, etc. The room had a metal queen bed, small tray table, chairs and a wardrobe. We attempted to get on the internet … no wifi. We asked and were given a myriad of reasons including “too many people used wifi so it broke.” The bed quality was borderline. The morning gave us only cold water. Breakfast was good and served on an open deck. No juice, only coffee, tea or hot water. Over breakfast we spoke with other guests who were also moving on from their relatively expensive and less than satisfactory stay.
After speaking to the owner by phone, we checked out without penalty and ended up at the sparkling clean, less expensive, Tourist Hotel (see above).
Address: Bab Antakia, Aleppo
Phone: 963 21 3323344 or 963 21 2114696
SIGHTSEEING IN ALEPPO
Lonely Planet has suggestions of what to see in Aleppo. It is hard to appreciate static museums when simply walking around Aleppo is like walking back in history.
There are times when it is best to put the guide book away and just get “lost” down the narrow twists and turns of souqs where you will discover more of this fascinating city beyond it’s touristy landmarks. We highly recommend getting “lost” and we highly recommend starting conversations with locals who are friendly, outgoing and very hospitable.
Shop … even if you are not planning on buying anything. The souqs are wonderful places to see what locals buy; from household goods, food and spices to women’s fashions hidden under their modest publicly worn abaya (long black coats). Aleppo is noted for it’s olive soaps … which I wish we had bought to bring home.
FOOD & DRINK IN ALEPPO
From popcorn to kabobs and falafels, food stands in Aleppo are ubiquitous.
You don’t have to walk far between bakeries and if you have a sweet tooth, like most Syrians, your taste buds will want to try a myriad of doughnuts and pastries.
Restaurants: The food in Syria is wonderful and comparatively inexpensive and restaurants are plentiful, so try a different one each night. Syrians traditionally eat later, so many establishments might look empty if you arrive before 7:30pm but doing so allows an opportunity to find a good people watching table. Restaurants, usually serve family style dishes. Naan bread most often arrives at the table and is included. Try using torn pieces of naan bread instead of a fork as the locals do.
GETTING AROUND ALEPPO
Damascus to Aleppo: Taxi to Khaddan train station (about 5 km southwest of the centre). Trip takes approximately 4.5 hours.
Aleppo to Palmyra: Taxi from Aleppo clock tower (New City) to Al-Ramuseh Garage (bus station) approximately 7km south of city centre. At Al-Ramuseh we purchased bus tickets from Al-Kadmous (open 24 hours) to Palmyra via Hamah. On arrival in Palmyra the bus stops at the Sahara Cafe on the edge of town.
Insist taxi drivers use the meter.This entry was posted in SYRIA