Aleppo Has Little Food or Water, but for a Night, Music

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Music echoed through the amphitheater of the iconic citadel in Aleppo, Syria, on Tuesday night as the site hosted its first concert since the country’s war began in 2011.

The ancient citadel, a Unesco World Heritage site, is now under government control and played host to hundreds of guests in a display that state-run news outlets said showed the “recovery of the city.”

Late last year, Aleppo was subjected to a monthslong siege as government forces wrested the eastern part of the city from the hands of opposition groups.

In those portions of the city left devastated by the conflict, recovery is still a long way off.

But during Tuesday night’s concert, the reality of a city recovering from prolonged battle seemed far away. A group of smiling children from the band Orthodox Scouts of St. Elie donned yellow berets and tan uniforms as they played drums and waved a large Syrian flag to open the event.

A well-known singer from Aleppo, Shadi Jamil, performed several national songs and traditional music at the event, according to the Syrian state-run news agency SANA.

SANA also reported that Basem al-Khatib, the director of the Aleppo tourism office, said that the concert “confirms the recovery of this city, which has stood and won over terrorism” and was an attempt to highlight its cultural significance.

The large medieval citadel dates to the 12th century and was badly damaged along with dozens of other important buildings as fighting raged in the city late last year.

Last year, the Russian military staged a similar performance at the ruins of a stone amphitheater in the ancient city of Palmyra after Syrian forces retook it from the Islamic State.

Palmyra later fell to Islamic State fighters again, and before being retaken by Syrian government forces, large portions of that amphitheater were destroyed by the group.

In much of eastern Aleppo, fresh water is still scarce, and containers must be filled by hand from tanks supplied by aid agencies, according to a recent report from Reuters. Civilians rely on humanitarian groups for food and medicine, and thousands are still displaced from their homes.

The conflict in Syria, now in its seventh year, has devastated the country’s population. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, more than five million have fled and 6.3 million are internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

An initial assessment conducted by Unesco observers earlier this year determined that 60 percent of the old city of Aleppo had been severely damaged and 30 percent had been destroyed.

The observers declared the area an “emergency zone” because there was extensive damage at the Great Umayyad Mosque, the citadel and many other mosques, churches, souks, madrasas, museums and other significant historic buildings.