We left Hama this morning to go to Aleppo. This is the furthest point north of our trip. We had an easy start by catching the 10:00 am train. This turned out to be the 10:45 train! We arrived early and found a deserted station but when the train eventually arrived it was very comfortable.
We took a taxi to our hotel - the Baron. This is the oldest hotel in Aleppo, and is famous as it was a major stopping off point on the overland route to Iraq and Egypt. You had to change trains here when coming from Istanbul to go to Bagdad and Cairo. The hotel is best summed up as having faded grandeur. It has a big hall, lots of marble and old furniture. There were some exhibits in the smoking room including TE Lawrence's bar bill from 1918. This is also another place where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile - at least the 3rd place we have heard this said.
We had time for a walk around Aleppo. It seemed like an interesting place with a large Souq that is more aimed at locals than tourists. We stopped at an hotel café for ice cream overlooking the citadel. This proved to be expensive as Fran found the hotel shop and decided she was in a shopping mood. We tried to find the immigration office (we need to renew our visas), we found that the office moved years ago (thanks Lonely Planet) but oh dear - Fran also found a jewellery shop where the owner said Fran clearly had champagne tastes - my problem is I can only afford the beer. She had every piece out in his shop - nice stuff but expensive (good value says Fran!).
The following morning we started to look round the sights in earnest and do a bit of shopping in Aleppo. We started off by walking down to the entrance to the Souq. Already we had had a stop at the soap street. Aleppo is famous for it's olive oil soap. The soap shops seem to gather at various point including one street just selling soap of various grades and types. Typically, Fran spent a long time looking at them but no purchases. (only because we didn't want to carry them around all day),
We went through the main gate into the Souq - quite an impressive piece of building. We then moved on to the main mosque. All women were required to wear appropriate dress - for Fran this meant donning a baggy overskirt and head dress. She was disgusted at having to do this, but some of the locals also had to do this if they were in jeans. All Fran said was no photos. The mosque itself was disappointing - it is supposed to be similar to the one in Damascus but it had been rebuilt umpteen times so it was not that great.
After this, we continued our journey through the Souqs. The Souq in Aleppo is different from the Damascus one. It is quite narrow and much more of a working Souq. We saw a camel carcass for sale in the meat section. It is a strange looking beast when sold as meat- all bone.
Fran was looking at soap, and jewellery. She didn't find anything like the necklace she found yesterday. She did find an old susani - a piece of cloth about the size of a tablecloth and heavily embroidered. They were supposed to come from Uzbekistan and used by women as part of their trousseau. Fran was a little unsure about it but came back 2 hours later to buy it and the shop owner wouldn't sell it to her. He said he sold all of them in a job lot but this sounded a bit dubious. After this Fran gave up and went to buy the soap from the first shop we were in.