June 5, 2004
Hello to all,
This morning I awoke to the soft pastel light of sunrise illuminating the two story high stone wall ofour bedroom. The light was filtered through the intricately carved stone latticework of the upperrow of windows on the courtyard side of our expansive room. The marble floors glowed softly asthe first birds’ songs of the morning echoed and the first sounds of the old house awaking foranother day began.
We are staying in one of the “old homes” of Alleppo, Syria. It once belonged to one of thewealthiest men in the city, and was converted to a hotel eight years ago. Built around twocourtyards, it consists of guest rooms, sitting rooms and dining rooms, all elegantly and tastefullyfurnished to match the exquisite inlaid stone and carved woodwork of the home’s construction.The original decorative wooden panels that lined some rooms were so historically significant theywere moved to a museum prior to the home’s conversion to a hotel. The expansive property isindeed alive with history, as is the old city neighborhood of tiny, twisting stone streets and narrowarched passageways and tunnels that surrounds it.
As you walk the hallways of this home, you can feel the history seep into your being. You cansmell the smoke of the water pipes as old alliances were renewed. You can hear the warmgreetings of old friends and the murmur of conversation as new memories were forged. Historylives in every worn threshold, every ancient door handle and every carved stone.
History is alive in this way wherever you travel in this region. Here, history is not an abstractconcept, the exclusive purview of cranky old academics, debated only by pedantic enthusiasts orlocked away in dusty textbooks. Here, history is alive. It surrounds the living, and its lessons,legends and heroes permeate every aspect of society.
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