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Soldiers replace tourists in Aleppo’s battered Old City

The five years of war have also taken their toll on Aleppo's historic city center, once a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site

Published: Updated:

Aleppo’s Old City has been reduced to rubble.

Fierce clashes have rocked Syria’s second city since mid-2012, ravaging its infrastructure and leaving it divided. Rebel groups now control the east and government forces hold the west.

65-year-old Mohammed Zakaria runs a barbershop in the regime-held Bab al-Farraj neighbourhood. He says work is still good, but his clientele has changed radically.

Mohammed Zakaria, a barber, said "This used to be a touristic spot, a lot of tourists and foreigners came here. These tourists and foreigners used to be my clients but now, this area has become a military zone so I work with soldiers and some of my relatives sometimes."

Aleppo was once Syria’s commercial powerhouse. In the government-controlled side, strolling tourists and shop owners have now given way to war-weary soldiers.

The city’s once famed markets are empty, save for a handful of vendors who stayed.

Yehya Qoteish, vegetable seller, said "Some of my customers are soldiers but most of them are displaced civilians who have fled areas where there's fighting. They came here because there are some affordable hotels and sometimes they stay there for free."

In the Bahsita neighborhood, also in the regime part of the city, tailor Zakaria Mosuli sorts through what’s left of his fabric. He now mostly uses military patterns to cater to soldiers.

He says out of the 10 tailors who worked in Aleppo’s Old City before the conflict, he’s the only one left.

Zakaria Mosuli, tailor, said "I used to produce sports clothing, beachwear and hats for children but now most of my production is for the army, God bless them, because unfortunately this has become a military area. We hope to see children again and clothe them. But right now, we only specialize in military clothing and that's it."

More than 300,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 and millions have been displaced. And the five years of war have also taken their toll on Aleppo's historic city center, once a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site.