Strange Timekeeping

Another anecdote from Charles Glass’s ‘Tribes with Flags’: This descibes the clock tower in the centre of Aleppo

“Not one ofthe four clocks, one on each face, toldthe same time. the hands of each dial, unlike the moving, flowing, shouting, running confusion below, was frozen. Each clock had died at a different moment. the time would always be, depending from which side of the square one saw the tower, 6:01, 6:55, 4:26 or 7:25, amm or pm.

Even in the days when the clocks told the time, they did not agree. “Tghe quare-squatting clock tower of Aleppo,” Harry Franck wrote in 1928,
“Shows ‘l’heure turque’ on two sides and ‘l’heure francaise’ on the others, which is symbolic, for aleppo, once an important city of Turkey, is more Turkish than syrian. that is, it is about 6 o’clock on the north and south sides of the tower when it is somewhere around noon or midnight on the east and west. But the clock always struck in Turkish, and even the ‘French hour’ differed so much on its two sides that almost any one could find one face of the tower agreeing with his own version of time.”

This could be an example of civic neglect, or it could be nature reclaiming its own. The notion of civic clocks is a European one, whereas the city of Aleppo was on its own, urban and/or agricultural time scale, so the clocktower was more a landmark to meet rather than a source of control, and of foreign control at that.

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