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Middle East and Africa

Syria Before and After

The destruction of the minaret of the great mosque of Aleppo in April of this year made headlines news. This architectonic complex was on the site of the agora of the Hellenistic city, not far from the famous Citadel. Previously a Christian cathedral, it had been transformed into a mosque during the Umayyad age, roundabout 710, but a great fire in 1159 forced the Zangid Sultan, Nûr al-Dîn, to engage in major restoration work. The oldest part of the building was, indeed, the minaret, which was built at the end of the eleventh century and then underwent various additions at the hands of the Mamluks. Before the outbreak of the conflict, the complex of the mosque was a living place, frequented by the inhabitants of the ancient city and the nearby markets who gathered in the large courtyard. Wars are also symbolic images and certainly the courtyard of the mosque transformed into a battle camp is one these.



We still do not know exactly what happened in Maaloula, the town with a Christian majority which is located at the side of Qalamun, about sixty kilometres from Damascus, which was attacked by jihadists at the beginning of September and then abandoned by most of the population. With the two religious houses of St. Takla and of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Maaloula has an outstanding artistic heritage. But above all else it is here that is still to be heard western neo-Aramaic, a language related to Palestinian Aramaic, ‘the language of Jesus’, that is to say. Another symbol, which shook all the Christians of the Middle East. The war affects the whole of the country, as far as the distant Deir ez-Zor on the Euphrates where the French built a suspension bridge in the 1920s during the Mandate. It had become the image of this city without a history (a rare case in Syria). Ending up on the front line between the rebels and the loyalist forces, and the subject of attacks by the national air force, this bridge collapsed in May of this year, with the usual shifting of responsibility.



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