Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Outremer - The Emirate of Aleppo

The Enirate of Aleppo is a Muslim state on the semiarid edge of the desert. It is a fragment of Saladin's empire, which once stretched unbroken from Aleppo to Aqaba. The capital and largest city is Aleppo, and the land encompasses a rough equilateral triangle with one point at Aleppo, one at the city of Harran, and one at city of Tadmor/Palmyra, with a fourth city at al-Raqqah, midway between Tadmor and Harran.

The wealth of the Emirate lies in trade, along the Euphrates from Mesopotamia to Edessa, across the desert in grest caravans through al-Raqqah and Tadmor, and between Edessa and Homs. The silk trade, though, which once passed through Aleppo on it's way to Antioch and Alexandrette now routes through Damascus and Acre. This is due to the great enmity and continual low-grade warfare between Antioch and Aleppo.

Harran is an agricultural center, well watered by the rivers Cullab and Deysan, and cotton is grown on the flat plain. Harran is only 24 miles from Edessa, and trading ties are close between the two cities. It also boasts the oldest University in the Islamic world. Al-Raqqah on the Euphratesis a bustling trade city, though the area is well irrigated and intsensively farmed. Tadmur, the ancient Palmyra, is an oasis city far to the south, which flourishes with trade caravans coming from Mesopotamia and terminating in Tripoli. Aleppo itself is built on fertile ground, and has many farming towns and villages nearby. The capital is famed throughout the Muslim world as the greatest center of Islamic music.

The north and east get the most rainfal, mostly in the winter, while Tadmor/Palmyra is an oasis in the desert. There are qanats - underground water channels - carved under the desert and accessed through deep wells, which supply the desert towns which would otherwise be too dry. The desert stretches all the way to Persia, and is only habitable in oases or where the Tigris and Euphrates pass through.

The Christians of Aleppo are mostly Assyrian and Aramean Catholics of the Eastern Syrian Rite, neither Orthodox nor Schismatic, but in full communion with Rome. There are many Jews spread throughout the area, concentrating in the four great cities. There were once a great number of Mandeans centered in Harran, but most were massacred just before the Crusades, and the remnants have scattered to villages and small towns throughout the Emirate.

The area near the border with Antioch is dangerous, with sudden raids and attacks occurring with a fair frequency in both directions. The Emir keeps up a guard of Turkoman cavalry stationed in the border towns, where they are disliked by the townspeople for their arrogant ways.



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