The Social/Cultural program will complement the scientific importance of the conference by introducing attendees to the origins of Arab Americans, their history, culture, environment, and religions.

Tour of Aleppo/The Old City

Aleppo is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world; it has known human settlement for at least 4,000 years. Attendees will discover the city’s significance in history due to its location at the end of the Silk Road, which passed through central Asia and Mesopotamia. Aleppo’s old bazaar (Medina), which has been a trading Mecca through history, has kept its shops and atmosphere intact since the last development of the city in the 17th century. Visitors step into a maze of specialized shops selling everything from Indian spices to silk and jewelry, and are greeted by smiling vendors and the aroma of fresh spices. Then visitors can stroll though the city’s prestigious Khans (caravansaries), which have been converted to trade centers, hotels, offices, and even foreign consulates.

 

The Citadel

A large medieval fortified palace sitting on top of a hill in the center of the old city, the Citadel is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids, and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. The tour of the Citadel will include the Byzantine warehouses, the two mosques (one of them dedicated to Abraham the Prophet), the Royal Palace and the Turkish bath and last but not least the Throne Hall, a state-of-the-art snapshot of Islamic architecture and design.

 

Maaret al Nouman and Serjella

Maaret al Nouman is the city of Alaa El Din Al Maarri (973-1057), one of the greatest philosophers of the Arab world. This small city offers a very nice museum with an impressive collection of mosaics unearthed from many sites in the area. Serjella is one of the 500 Dead Cities of the north of Syria, ghost cities built between the 4th and 7th century that disappeared around the 9th century. Serjella arose in a natural basin and prospered by cultivating grapes and olives. A bath complex indicates the wealth of the community. It has extensive remains of houses, a church, baths, tombs and sarcophagi, and a two-storey villa.

 

The Turkish Bath (Hammam) Experience

The hammams in the Ottoman culture started out as annexes to mosques, but quickly evolved into institutions and eventually into separate structural complexes. Visitors taking a Turkish bath first relax in a warm room heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air, allowing the bather to perspire freely. The bather will receive a bar of Aleppo soap (world-famous soap made with laurel and olive oil) and a massage glove. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room (known as the hot room) before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and receiving a massage, bathers retire to the cooling room for a period of relaxation. The Hammam will be reserved for the exclusive use of our conference guests. Males and females will use the facility alternately. Afterwards, guests will be wrapped in warm towels and invited to savor a cup of tea or a coffee around the fountain.

 

St. Simeon and Ain Dara

St. Simeon (Deir Samaan) is one of the main sites in Syria. Built in 491 A.D. by the Byzantine Emperor Zenon, this well-preserved church was built in honor of St. Simeon the Stylite, who lived here atop a column for 37 years. The church is visited by pilgrims from all around the area. Ain Dara is a neo-Hittite site located north of St. Simeon in the Afrin River valley, dating back to the first millennium B.C. with evidence of Greek, Seleucid, and Arabic remains as well. The temple dates from the 10th-9th Century B.C. and is dedicated to Ishtar, the Semitic goddess of fertility.

 

Desert (Palmyra/Tadmor)

In ancient times the Aramaic city of Palmyra was an important city in central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus. Once dubbed the “Bride of the Desert,” Palmyra was a vital stop for caravans crossing the desert. Palmyra was mentioned in the Old Testament as being fortified by Solomon and it flourished in Roman times. There is much to see at the site today, including several temples dedicated to Aramean, Babylonian and Mesopotamian deities. The ancient ruins are a World Heritage Site and are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Syria.

 

Damascus City and Attractions

Damascus is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Don’t be tempted to merely see this city as the gate to Syria’s hilltop fortresses, crumbling Roman ruins and scenic vistas. Damascus itself has charms that only an ancient Middle Eastern city can offer.

Old Damascus is the city’s most intriguing sight. Highlights include the Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque and old Damascene houses within the city walls; the mosaics of the Umayyad Mosque, which was visited by Pope John Paul II; and the Tomb of Saladin.

Damascus epitomizes the history of Syria. Here guests can browse Syrian handicrafts on Straight Street or take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the Souq Al-Hamidiyya. Guests can also sample ethnic cuisine at the Old City Restaurant, or sit down for a bout of traditional storytelling at the Al-Nawfara coffeehouse.


Scientific Program Jointly Sponsored by

Wayne State University Aleppo University

University of Aleppo