The Citadel of Aleppo is one of the remarkable examples of military architecture in the Middle East. The recently discovered Temple of the Storm God dates human use of the hill from the beginning of the third millennium BC. The Citadel of Aleppo, which has been built on a natural limestone hill, is the result of numerous constructive phases, large changes and destruction. The record of these changes is still recognizable in a few structures. Most of what remains today is from the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. The monument represents a unique cultural heritage for the quality of the architecture, the variety and quality of the materials, and for the complexity of the historical stratifications.
The Citadel rises above the Old City of Aleppo, which since 1986 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the same time, the Citadel is the landmark for the new Aleppo, a city with almost two million inhabitants that attributes a strong symbolic value to the Citadel. Indeed, the site is one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture and one of the most visited sites in Syria. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria (DGAM) on 1 December 1999 to propose support in the restoration of three citadels in Syria (Aleppo, Masyaf and Salah al-Din).
The Citadel of Aleppo is a very large complex containing a series of buildings and monuments with different historical features, which call for a diversified approach and different forms of conservation and maintenance targeted to the specific requirements of each structure or category of structures. These can be listed as the bridge and the main gateway; the ring walls and the towers; the mosques; the cisterns; the palace complex; the arsenal; the hammam; the barracks; the tunnels; and the new theatre. Three major axes of implementation were developed by AKTC from 2000 to 2008, after the finalization of the Master Plan in 2000.
The main goal of the Trust was to develop several levels of intervention: upgrade the local staff in the preservation of the masonry; the development of a real tourist infrastructure; and intervention in place of the local Directorate of Antiquities when foreign expertise was needed.
Within the site, several archaeological excavations are still ongoing; the Citadel will be the subject of historical and archaeological research for several years.