A UNESCO World Heritage site is turned to rubble.
Parts of Aleppo's historic souk, or marketplace, have been burnt to the ground. The storied Sissi House, one of the region's finest restaurants and famous for its tasty cherry lamb kebabs, has reportedly burnt down. Dar Zamaria, part of a wave of chic boutique hotels being carved out of Ottoman merchant houses (and which I reviewed for the New York Times in 2009), has also reportedly been destroyed. We are witnessing a sectarian civil war, and the dreadful human carnage that comes with it. We may also be witnessing the destruction of a way of life that's evolved over centuries around one of the Arab world's architectural treasures.
If the West is not going to intervene in Syria, it should at least do more to prevent this UNESCO-protected site -- a city that lays claim to being among the world's oldest -- from becoming a 21st-century version of Dresden.
Aleppo is arguably the most enchanting city in the Middle East. Awash in mosques and minarets, the city is also stuffed with Armenian churches, Maronite cathedrals, and even a synagogue, a consequence of its unique position at the crossroads of Ottoman, French, and Jewish influences. Its maze-like souk and massive citadel on a hill are remarkable enough. But throw in hospitable people, trendy rooftop restaurants whose waiters sneak alcohol in teacups to Westerners with a wink and a nod, and the welcoming aroma of underground shops lined with tasty sweets and pistachio nuts, and Aleppo would seem to be custom-built for vacationers seeking a relaxing setting to kick back and nibble on mezze (appetizers).