HUFFINGTON POST
10/12/2016 02:21 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2016

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

The city is unrecognizable after half a decade of conflict.
A man in Aleppo weeps after losing relatives in an airstrike on Oct. 11, 2016.
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. 

  • A woman sits at a table in an Aleppo bar on May 21, 2009.
    Marka via Getty Images
    A woman sits at a table in an Aleppo bar on May 21, 2009.
  • An aerial view of Aleppo in 1997. 
    ullstein bild via Getty Images
    An aerial view of Aleppo in 1997. 
  • Children in Aleppo in 2006. 
    Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    Children in Aleppo in 2006. 
  • A man smokes his water pipe in front of the Aleppo citadel on March 18, 2006.
    RAMZI HAIDAR via Getty Images
    A man smokes his water pipe in front of the Aleppo citadel on March 18, 2006.
  • View from the citadel of Aleppo in 2007. 
    Digital Light Source via Getty Images
    View from the citadel of Aleppo in 2007. 
  • A couple stuck in a traffic jam on a bustling street in Aleppo on July 7, 1996.
    Ed KashiNational GeographicGetty Images
    A couple stuck in a traffic jam on a bustling street in Aleppo on July 7, 1996.
  • A Syrian musician plays during the opening of the festival marking Aleppo as the Islamic cultural capital on March 18, 2
    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.
  • A couple in Aleppo on Oct. 5, 2006. 
    Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    A couple in Aleppo on Oct. 5, 2006. 
  • Antique dealer Musafi Assal attends to a customer in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
    Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    Antique dealer Musafi Assal attends to a customer in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
  • Aleppo on Oct. 5, 2006. 
    Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    Aleppo on Oct. 5, 2006. 
  • A man asleep inside his shop in Aleppo on Sept. 13, 2002.
    Stuart Freedman via Getty Images
    A man asleep inside his shop in Aleppo on Sept. 13, 2002.
  • The interior of Sissi House, a storied hotel in Aleppo, on March 20, 2010. It burned down during the Syrian civil war in
    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.
  • Syrian dancers perform the the Sufi tannoura dance (also known as the al-darawish or dervish dance) during the ceremony marki
    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.
  • A man inside Aleppo's Al Madina Souk in 2010.
    Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    A man inside Aleppo's Al Madina Souk in 2010.
  • Bath domes in Aleppo in 2006. Aleppo was famous for its attractive churches, mosques, schools and baths.
    Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    Bath domes in Aleppo in 2006. Aleppo was famous for its attractive churches, mosques, schools and baths.
  • A waiter at the Sheraton in Aleppo holds a plate of food in 2010.
    Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    A waiter at the Sheraton in Aleppo holds a plate of food in 2010.
  • A cook at Al-Andalos Sweets in Aleppo preparing baklava in 2010.
    Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    A cook at Al-Andalos Sweets in Aleppo preparing baklava in 2010.
  • People shop at the main market in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
    Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    People shop at the main market in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
  • View of Aleppo from the city's citadel on Oct. 21, 2004.
    Pacific Press via Getty Images
    View of Aleppo from the city's citadel on Oct. 21, 2004.
  • Syrian men weave traditional rugs in Aleppo on March 18, 2006.
    RAMZI HAIDAR via Getty Images
    Syrian men weave traditional rugs in Aleppo on March 18, 2006.
  • A sweet shop inside Al Madina Souk in Aleppo in 2010. 
    Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    A sweet shop inside Al Madina Souk in Aleppo in 2010. 
  • A man drinks tea after a bath at the Hammam Yalbougha an-Nasry in Aleppo on Sept. 13, 2002.
    Stuart Freedman via Getty Images
    A man drinks tea after a bath at the Hammam Yalbougha an-Nasry in Aleppo on Sept. 13, 2002.
  • Famous Aleppo architecture in 2006. 
    Eric LAFFORGUE via Getty Images
    Famous Aleppo architecture in 2006. 
  • Tourists walk past a trinket shop in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
    Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    Tourists walk past a trinket shop in Aleppo on June 23, 2010.
  • A view of Aleppo and its historic citadel on June 23, 2010.
    Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters
    A view of Aleppo and its historic citadel on June 23, 2010.
  • Tourists at the entrance of Aleppo's citadel on June 23, 2010.
    Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    Tourists at the entrance of Aleppo's citadel on June 23, 2010.
  • People prepare kebabs in Hagop, an old restaurant in Aleppo, on June 23, 2010.
    Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    People prepare kebabs in Hagop, an old restaurant in Aleppo, on June 23, 2010.
  • Members of the Syrian Academy of Gastronomy taste Aleppine cuisine at a restaurant on Oct. 21, 2007.
    Khaled Al Hariri/Reuters
    Members of the Syrian Academy of Gastronomy taste Aleppine cuisine at a restaurant on Oct. 21, 2007.
  • Two people take an evening walk in Aleppo on March 20, 2010.
    Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    Two people take an evening walk in Aleppo on March 20, 2010.
  • Tourists visit the ruins at the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites on March 25, 2010.
    Leisa Tyler via Getty Images
    Tourists visit the ruins at the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites on March 25, 2010.
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