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The 12th-century Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo was described by Unesco as "one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim world". But neither they nor anybody else could save it from the Syrian civil war that has reduced the city to ruins and the mosque minaret to rubble. Once the third largest city in the Ottoman empire after Constantinople and Cairo, Aleppo claims to be one of the oldest in the world. It was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1986 because of its largely unchanged buildings, which dated from the 11th to the 16th centuries. Lying on the Silk Road between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean, it was a cosmopolitan hub of leisure and trade, fought over by competing empires and attracting merchants from Venice, Isfahan and Agra, who did business in the largest suq in the Middle East. Until the war, the city was a treasure trove of antiquities. The story of the its long and eventful history is fully told in Philip Mansel's book, Aleppo.
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