One of the oldest cities in the world. I’ve never been there. One day in the future when there is peace, I want to go to Aleppo.

The town citadel is one of the largest and oldest in the world, from the pictures it looks enormous. Excavations have shown that there has been a fortification in the location since 3000 years BC [1]. A vertiginous thought for a Swede. The fortifications here in the Scandinavian kingdom are surely magnificent too, but the oldest one is 4000 years younger than the Citadel of Aleppo.

The large gate leading into the fortification with its characteristic oblong arched entrance is impressive, just like the limestone hill on which everything is built. On the other side of the gate an antique landscape unfolds with old buildings and a beautiful crescent shaped theatre. Here among the treasures and the history of the syrian people [2], there are men with guns once again. The fortification has been (and is?) a part of the Assad regime’s strongholds. Here they hide from rebels and that has made the Citadel a target.

There are several youtube videos of extremist explosions destroying the historical building [3]. But while I wish that I could see the castle as a tourist, whatever may still be there in the future, there are others who just want to get back to their hometown. Aleppo was the largest city in Syria. I write 'was' because I wonder how many people can still be living there now. The city has been occupied and destroyed over the years by among others the Mongols, but it probably didn't come close to the destruction and tragedy which have been taking place since the start of the civil war in 2012. Before that, more than 2 million people lived in the city, side by side, regardless of religion. Surely there where still problems since the country was an illiberal democracy [4], but the average citizen lived in peace with his neighbor and had a big city life in one of the regions largest trading metropoles.

I met Randa and her 22 year old son Ahmad who are from Aleppo [5]. They think that their religion isn’t of interest. "We lived there in peace, with each other. If I’m sunni or shia, it doesn’t matter. I’m a muslim. End of discussion." says Ahmad. ”We also have many christian friends. If they have another religion, that is no problem”, says Randa. In Syria she’s an architectural engineer. She used to design everything from hospitals to government buildings. Something she wants to keep doing in her new home land, Sweden. My northern european country is one of the countries in Europe that has received most refugees [6]. Randa and her son are a clear example of what advantages Sweden will have from that in the future. Ahmad studied to be a mechanical engineer in Aleppo. Now he’s trying to learn Swedish in order to continue his studies in a Swedish university as soon as possible. "That’s the only thing I’m thinking about right now, my goal, to be able to get on with my studies and move forwards in life."

Obviously not all who have fled here have the same academical background and intent, as Randa and Ahmed. But all refugees I have met this winter [7] have one thing in common: They want to start their lives again. They’re people who want an education or to keep working with what they did before, as an interpreter, nurse’s assistant, doctor, cook, photographer, university professor and so on. Once they’ve got a residence permit they can put down roots and will start serving their new country.

You who don’t think there aren’t enough jobs have missed an important point if you ask me. The amount of work opportunities aren’t a static number. It’s a product of necessity and the knowledge in a society. The biggest cities around the world are often the fruit of people with different ideas and backgrounds, meeting and thereby moving development forwards.

Just look at Aleppo. An old Swedish dictionary describes it so perfectly [8]. ”It’s an oasis in the desert where the caravan paths from the north and south, east and west meet. This is why trading became highly significant. In 1897, goods worth 36 million Swedish kronor where exported.” The growth of the city during its 8000 year old history [9] was dependent on its strategic location between the Mediterranean Sea and Mesopotamia (i.e. modern Iraq) - And that people from different cultures and religions met and built their mutual future together.

[3] in-Syrias-Unesco-listed-Aleppo.html
[4] first-ten-years-power
[6] for-refugees-so-its-pitching-tents/