With no end in sight to the war, it may take years for Aleppo, once a thriving metropolis and Syria’s largest city, to be rebuilt.
In the meantime, Mohammad is rebuilding the city with paper, wood, toys and other household items in his bedroom. He dreams of becoming an engineer and rebuilding his home town in real life.
“When I began building it [the model city], I was thinking about my future,” Mohammad told Al Jazeera in his home town.
“I hope to study abroad … and then return to Aleppo to rebuild its buildings. I want to be an architectural or civil engineer one day.” He said his favourite subjects in school were maths and engineering.
The paper-constructed model city can be seen all around his room. The buildings stand a few centimetres tall, and the grass has been coloured green.
The buildings’ doors and windows are painted, and the streets in this imagined version of a future Aleppo are full of toy cars.
, I was thinking about my future.”]
The model hosts several structures, including a football stadium. “I used to love to go there with my dad,” he said, but because of the daily bombings of the city, “we don’t go any more”.
Mohammad also built a miniature Citadel of Aleppo, as well as tiny versions of buildings from elsewhere in the world, including the White House and al-Aqsa Mosque. “These are the most powerful places in the world,” Mohammad said.
Sometimes his peers come to see the display and take pictures.
“I love Mohammad’s work a lot and want to be an architectural engineer when I grow up, and rebuild the homes that were destroyed by the bombs,” said Mustapha, Mohammad’s friend and classmate.
Mustapha, who declined to give his full name to Al Jazeera, wished that he could do something like Mohammad, but lacks the time. He studies throughout the year and works with his father in the summer.
Mohammad’s parents support his efforts. “I want to give him the necessary space … to live out his dreams,” said Wael Qatish, Mohammad’s father. But above all else, the elder Qatish wants a better future for his son. “I want him to get out of Aleppo and all the bombing and destruction that is our life here.”
Fighting rages on in Aleppo between the government forces, the rebels, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Russian planes overhead.
On Friday, the Syrian army inched closer to the rebel-held Aleppo highway.
As the violence continues, so too does the harrowing reality in which Mohammad, Wael and Mustapha live in.
Perhaps one day Mohammad will achieve his dream of rebuilding Aleppo – but, like the end to this horrific war, that remains to be seen.