Poor Aleppo, this ancient Syrian city has been the site of ongoing battles since July 2012. Many thousands have died, or fled and become refugees, as their city has been pulverised by the onslaught of war. For the people of Aleppo, the human loss and suffering cannot be measured. For the rest of humanity, as the city is reduced to rubble, the loss of history and culture is also a devastation. I was reminded of the rich diversity of the city recently, at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, where I saw the incredibly beautiful Aleppo Room, from the Ottoman period, with its wall panelling, painted in exquisite detail. It was commissioned by a prosperous broker for the banqueting hall of his private house in Aleppo’s Christian district and is dated 1009 and 1012 according to the Islamic calendar (1600 – 01 and 1603). Included on the panels are two Psalms in Arabic, along with Arabic proverbs, and scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The painting is strongly influenced by the Persian tradition, and gives an impression of different communities living peacefully together. How far this ideal is from the city today, but I pause and think of the rich artistic creativity supported by the communities who lived there in the past, and hope very much that such richness will again become part of Aleppo’s future. Through art, we know the past.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18957096
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-36961184