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A 200 years’ journey…Aleppo’s Carlton Hotel from a hospital to an institute to a shattered hotel

The archaeological site of "Carlton Hotel" in Aleppo before and after destruction (SANA)

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On 8 May 2014, a 200-year-old ancient building collapsed in Aleppo city, before being bombed by mines placed in a tunnel beneath it. The Carlton Hotel had a strategic location during battles that took place in Aleppo back then. 

Few hours after the explosion, perpetrators became known with the “Islamic Front,” one of the most prominent factions fighting the Syrian regime at that time, claiming responsibility for bombing “Aleppo’s Carlton Hotel.” Over the years, the hotel has undergone several transformations from being a hospital to a nursing school to became a four-star hotel, before ending its long journey with explosives. 

How did Carlton’s journey end?

Back then, the “Islamic Front” broadcasted video recordings showing the violent explosion which shook the area, with the burning flames forming a huge cloud of smoke and dust that turned the sky dark and covered the explosion site. The faction also confirmed that the explosion resulted from planting large amounts of explosives in tunnels under the building, pointing out that dozens of the Syrian regime forces were killed in the offensive.  

The hotel was used by the regime as headquarter where its forces were located in a strategic area that overlooked the Citadel of Aleppo. There were many attempts by opposition forces to destroy the building, which ended in failure. 

“The Carlton Hotel” (also known as Carlton Citadel Hotel), is located inside a building that can be traced back to 200 years ago, opposite the entrance to the 13th-century Citadel of Aleppo. The Citadel, which is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, is under the auspices of UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Carlton Hotel’s journey

According to a book entitled “Aleppo, the oldest inhabited city in the world” the construction of the hotel goes back to 1819 when the building was a national hospital near the al-Zarb market and was called back then “the National Hamidi Hospital.” At that time, the facility was fully equipped by aid funds from a number of donors, while its construction took about 48 years to complete. later, it was officially inaugurated by Aleppo’s Governor Jamil Pasha in 1900 to treat strangers and the poor. The building contained 32 rooms in addition to two big houses, two large reception rooms, and a pharmacy. 

In 1988, the building was turned into a health institute, before being invested as a hotel thanks to its magnificent view and strategic location opposite the entrance to the Citadel of Aleppo, and being next to the archeological site of Khan al-Shouna, in a touristic area that contains many archaeological sites and touristic facilities. Later, this area was classified as one of the most prominent touristic and archeological areas in the province of Aleppo.

The “Aleppo’s Carlton Hotel” is located a 20-minute drive from Aleppo International Airport, and a few steps away from the Aleppo Citadel and ancient areas, the Umayyad Mosque, and the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions as well as public baths (Hammams), which added more touristic importance to this site. 

In 2011, the hotel was granted a final license from the Ministry of Tourism and was classified as a four-star hotel. The facility contained 90 rooms, 180 beds, and 584 restaurant chairs, at an investment cost of 486 million Syrian Pounds (10.565 million USD). The building also included halls for different occasions and a meeting room.

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