The barbers of the Antioch Gate

In Aleppo, as you pass through the right-left dogleg and half millennium of history at the Bab Antakya there’s a little treat just to your right. You may, if hairy, wish to duck in through the door almost behind you. In doing so you will enter the unnamed barber shop at the Antioch Gate.

Aleppo's streets: some have no names

Inside are the usual elements of a men’s barbers. A ramshackle, no-nonsense setting only men would tolerate. None-the-less, here is a place for serious grooming. Cuts, shaves, eyebrow-threading are on offer, all to a backdrop of Arabic banter and incomprehensible, distorted football commentary.

Archer's eye-view of the approach to Aleppo Citadel

Bakri, the young man with the cut-throat razor, didn’t speak much English, but we worked it out between us and he snipped calmly away. I pondered, as maybe you will if you visit, how long has there been a barbers here? Judging by the decor, at least since the French mandate. Maybe longer. Possibly centuries. Has a barber here shaved beards and cut hair for Ottomans, Mamluks, Ummayads, Byzantines? In Aleppo you sense that anything is possible and as  the answer isn’t clear, you may decide like I did that that answer is yes. What a splendid possibility. Bakri wicking hairs off your face will hurt enough to jar you back to the present.

Send a carte postale home from Syria

The Antioch gate is the perfect spot for a barber, the first and last thing many visitors to Aleppo’s Old City will see. After a trip to the Hammam, and smelling sweet, a shave and a haircut and a winning smile might just convince your loved one to put on some of that remarkably racy underwear for sale in the souq to the south of the Great Mosque.

Shave and a haircut, SP£300 (£4).

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