WORLDPOST

Aleppo Before The War: A Poignant Look Back At A Once-Thriving Metropolis

The city is unrecognizable after half a decade of conflict.

13/10/2016 5:21 AM AEDT | Updated 05/11/2016 5:09 AM AEDT
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Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters
A man in Aleppo weeps after losing relatives in an airstrike on Oct. 11, 2016.

Once a buzzing city and now a raging war zone, Aleppo has endured a catastrophic transformation in under a decade.

Aleppo was, until recently, a thriving metropolis and tourist destination known for its medieval architecture and rich cultural history. One of the biggest cities in Syria and one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, it’s a United Nations World Heritage site that was named the “Islamic Capital of Culture” in 2006.

Since Syria’s civil war erupted in March 2011, hundreds of thousands of people have died and nearly 4.8 million have fled the country. But for the estimated 275,000 Syrians under siege in Aleppo, leaving is not an option. Entire neighborhoods are now in ruins as the bloody power battle between regime forces and rebels rages on.

“Anger and sadness have overwhelmed Aleppo,” Muhammad Rasul, an emergency responder for Syria Charity who lives in the city with his family, told The WorldPost. “People live under violent and constant bombing.”

Aleppo residents have been subjected to “a level of savagery that no human should have to endure,” said Stephen O’Brien, the U.N.’s chief humanitarian official, in a damning statement in early October. Civilians stuck in this “living hell” face an urgent race against time, he added, noting they are “terrified, trapped and with nowhere to hide.”

New drone footage of the city, which can be seen above, may look like a scene from a post-apocalyptic film ― but as Rasul says, “This is Aleppo’s reality.”

“We are waiting for the end of the siege, and dreaming to recover [our] freedom of speech, to express [our] opinions, eat nutritional food, wear decent clothes, live with dignity like other people in the world, and rebuild the future of Syria,” he said.

The photos below, all taken before 2011, show an entirely different Aleppo and highlight the devastating toll of the conflict so far. 

  • Marka via Getty Images
    A woman sits at a table in an Aleppo bar on May 21, 2009.
  • ullstein bild via Getty Images
    An aerial view of Aleppo in 1997. 
  • Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    Children in Aleppo in 2006. 
  • RAMZI HAIDAR via Getty Images
    A man smokes his water pipe in front of the Aleppo citadel on March 18, 2006.
  • Digital Light Source via Getty Images
    View from the citadel of Aleppo in 2007. 
  • Ed KashiNational GeographicGetty Images
    A couple stuck in a traffic jam on a bustling street in Aleppo on July 7, 1996.
  • RAMZI HAIDAR via Getty Images
    A Syrian musician plays during the opening of the festival marking Aleppo as the Islamic cultural capital on March 18, 2006.
  • Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    A couple in Aleppo on Oct. 5, 2006. 
  • Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    Antique dealer Musafi Assal attends to a customer in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
  • Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    Aleppo on Oct. 5, 2006. 
  • Stuart Freedman via Getty Images
    A man asleep inside his shop in Aleppo on Sept. 13, 2002.
  • Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    The interior of Sissi House, a storied hotel in Aleppo, on March 20, 2010. It burned down during the Syrian civil war in 2012.
  • RAMZI HAIDAR via Getty Images
    Syrian dancers perform the the Sufi tannoura dance (also known as the al-darawish or dervish dance) during the ceremony marking Aleppo as the Islamic cultural capital on March 18, 2006.
  • Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    A man inside Aleppo's Al Madina Souk in 2010.
  • Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    Bath domes in Aleppo in 2006. Aleppo was famous for its attractive churches, mosques, schools and baths.
  • Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    A waiter at the Sheraton in Aleppo holds a plate of food in 2010.
  • Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    A cook at Al-Andalos Sweets in Aleppo preparing baklava in 2010.
  • Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    People shop at the main market in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
  • Pacific Press via Getty Images
    View of Aleppo from the city's citadel on Oct. 21, 2004.
  • RAMZI HAIDAR via Getty Images
    Syrian men weave traditional rugs in Aleppo on March 18, 2006.
  • Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    A sweet shop inside Al Madina Souk in Aleppo in 2010. 
  • Stuart Freedman via Getty Images
    A man drinks tea after a bath at the Hammam Yalbougha an-Nasry in Aleppo on Sept. 13, 2002.
  • Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    Famous Aleppo architecture in 2006. 
  • Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    Tourists walk past a trinket shop in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
  • Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters
    A view of Aleppo and its historic citadel on June 23, 2010.
  • Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    Tourists at the entrance of Aleppo's citadel on June 23, 2010.
  • Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    People prepare kebabs in Hagop, an old restaurant in Aleppo, on June 23, 2010.
  • Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    Members of the Syrian Academy of Gastronomy taste Aleppine cuisine at a restaurant on Oct. 21, 2007.
  • Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    Two people take an evening walk in Aleppo on March 20, 2010.
  • Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    Tourists visit the ruins at the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites on March 25, 2010.