Legendary Middle East hotel defies turbulent age

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A bill for Monsieur Lawrence sits in a display cabinet at Aleppo's Hotel Baron, where the guest list reads like a Who's Who of the 20th century. The 1914 bill belonged to Lawrence of Arabia and despite the rumors, the enigmatic British intelligence officer did pay it, hotel owner Armen Mazloumian insists. "I don't know where the story that he didn't came from. One journalist must have written this and others copied without bothering to check," the Armenian manager said over a beer at the hotel's oak bar.

Almost a century since it opened, the Baron hotel still attracts visitors nostalgic for an age when the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo with its vast citadel attracted spies, explorers and colonialists.
The Baron has been buffeted by the political and financial swells of an unstable region but it still holds a special place in some visitors' hearts.

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