Damascus (Syria)

Damascus (syria)

Damascus is the capital of Syria, located in the southwest of the country on the Barada River. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, over 10,000 years old and was built at the crossroads of ancient trade routes.


There are many versions about the appearance of the first settlement on the site of Damascus. According to the Bible, the history of the city began in the first centuries after the Flood the appearance of Damascus there is associated with the name of Noah’s great grandson Uzza. Radiocarbon analysis shows that people appeared there around 6300 BC. According to the Arab historian Ibn Asakir (1105-1176), the Damascus area began to be settled by humans around the fourth millennium BC.

In the eleventh to twelfth centuries BC, Damascus grew to serve as the capital of the Aramean Kingdom of Damascus. However, the age of the ancient state was short-lived: already in the VIII century Damascus lands were subjugated to Assyria. The former king was executed and the entire kingdom, including the future Syrian capital, was looted and destroyed.

However, the victors did not stay in this region for long, and from that time a centuries-long “relay race” of rulers began for the city. In the seventh and sixth centuries BC the power of Babylon was established in the region. In 539 BC Damascus was conquered by the Persians, who two centuries later fell to the troops of the legendary conqueror Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). After the king’s death, the empire was divided among the generals into many smaller dominions and many lands were lost. Damascus went to the Seleucid dynasty.

In 71 BC the Armenian army invaded Damascus, but they were so scattered that they had nothing to counter the growing power of the Roman Empire. The Roman general, Gnaeus Pompey, nicknamed “the Great” (106-48 BC) managed to annex the Damascus lands to the Roman Empire already in 64 BC. Modern Syria became a Roman province, with Damascus as its capital.

It was during Roman rule that the layout and infrastructure that was to attract many foreign merchants began to take shape and form.

In the 3rd century AD, a crisis broke out in the Roman Empire, and on the background of political problems, Damascus passed to the Byzantine Empire in 395 AD without sharp conflicts. During this period the Christian community began to form in the city.

In the 7th century Damascus became the capital of the great empire of the Umayyad dynasty (661-750) and the teachings of Islam began to spread there from then on. But in the eighth century. The “golden” times came to an end, and the line of successful rulers was displaced by the Abbasid dynasty, which moved the capital from Damascus to the still very young Baghdad. From the 9th century on Damascus again began a period of turmoil and uncertainty: by the 10th century the power of the Egyptian rulers Tulunids and Fatimids was established here, later Damascus was subjected to the Crusades, the destructive invasions of the Mongol Tatars (1300) and the forces of Tamerlane (1400).

Damascus was occupied by the Turkish sultan Selim in 1516, and finally in the history of the city began a period of relative stability under the Ottoman Empire. It was only in 1833 that Damascus was briefly occupied by Mohammed Ali of Egypt, but in 1860 its territories went back to the Ottomans.

In 1920 France received a mandate for Syria, which was part of the fallen Ottoman Empire. In 1943, Syria became an independent state with its capital in Damascus. Damascus, which for sixty-eight years serves as Syria’s capital, is located in the southwest of the country, on the banks of the Barada River, referred to in the Bible as the Aban. To the west of the capital runs the Antilwan mountain range, which creates a rain shadow over Damascus (the average annual rainfall here is only 200 mm, with high summer temperatures and drought).

The capital of Syria

Damascus is divided into two regions: the Old City and the New City. In the Old City the old city wall with its seven gates has survived to this day, some parts of which were built during the Roman Empire. The Syrian capital inherited the Roman period layout: the streets and neighborhoods are still based on a rectangular form, and many of the roads in the historic area formed by the Romans, who sought to attract foreign merchants comfortable infrastructure and safe conditions. Of course, the old narrow streets are not designed to keep up with the traffic in Damascus today, which has retained its position as an important trading center of the country, so traffic jams are not uncommon these days.

Damascus is also the main educational center of Syria. Today Damascus University which was opened in 1903 and is considered the oldest secular educational institution on the territory of the country still works here. The development of the educational system in Damascus is evidenced by the preserved Muslim educational institutions – madrassahs (combining the functions of a secondary school and a religious seminary). Among them are Al-Adiliyah (13th century) and Hyp ad-Din (12th century).

Damascus plays an important role in the life of the faithful. Historically, the city has both a Muslim community, established during the reign of Arab dynasties, and a Christian community, established during Byzantine rule. The better financial situation of the Christian minority and its support from European countries caused discontent among Muslims. Religious conflicts arose in many Syrian cities. The most famous clash is the so-called Damascus massacre of 1860, when thousands of people were killed in battles between Christians and Druze (an Arab ethnic group). Nevertheless, over time, the situation in the city has normalized and now the Syrian capital can be called a city of tolerance towards other religions, although about 90% of the population are Sunni Muslims.

Damascus has become a symbol of the centuries-long history of Christianity and Islam in Damascus with its famous architectural construction: the Umayyad Mosque. It is believed to contain a fragment of the head of John the Baptist (known in Arabic as Yahya the Prophet), a revered figure in both Christian and Islamic cultures. The Umayyad Mosque is open to all comers, regardless of their religion.

Damascus is also known for its cuisine, which combines Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Turkish influences. Local dishes such as hummus, babaganoush, and fattoush are popular worldwide.


Despite the prosperity and rapid development of Damascus, with high-rise business centers being built in its new neighborhoods and the standard of living rising, it was here that the uprising in Syria was sparked. On March 15, 2011 several hundred people took to the streets of the capital demanding reforms, and since that day a wave of uprisings, protests and riots, violently suppressed by the authorities and incited by radicals, has swept across Syria. This led to the resignation of the government and hundreds of casualties among protesters and police, and hit the country’s economy hard.

The war in Syria began in 2011 and has affected many cities in the country, including Damascus. Fighting and shelling have destroyed or damaged many historic buildings and monuments in Damascus. In 2013, the Umayyad Mosque was severely damaged in a car bomb attack, and in 2018, after the liberation of the eastern part of the city, it was discovered that many buildings and monuments in the Ancient City had been destroyed.

In addition, the war led to a humanitarian crisis in Damascus and throughout Syria. Many people were forced to leave their homes and seek shelter in other parts of the country or abroad. In Damascus, as in other cities in Syria, there was a crisis of water, electricity and medical services, resulting in difficult living conditions for many people.

General Information

  • Capital of Syria, first mentioned in 2500 BC.
  • Administrative-territorial division: 23 districts.
  • Language: Arabic.
  • Ethnic composition: the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are Syrian Arabs.
  • Religion: Islam (mostly Sunni), Christianity.
  • The currency is the Syrian pound.
  • The most important airport: Damascus International Airport.
  • Area: 105 sq. km.
  • Population: 1,834,741 (2009).
  • Population density: 17,473.7 persons/km2.
  • Elevation of the city center above sea level: 680 m.
  • Time zone: +2 (GMT), summer time: +3 (GMT).


  • Industries: electrical engineering, metalworking, food industry, textile, chemical industry, cement manufacture.
  • Agriculture: plant growing, meat and milk cattle breeding.
  • Services sphere: tourism, financial services, transport, trade.

Climate and weather

  • Mediterranean climate, but with greater seasonal temperature variations than the regional average.
  • Average January temperature: +7°C, sometimes snow.
  • The average July temperature: +26 ºC, in August often above +40 ºC.
  • Average annual precipitation: 220 mm.
  • Characterized by a small amount of precipitation, which is caused by the “rain shadow” of Antilivan mountains.


  • The Umayyad Mosque (8th century) is one of the oldest and largest in the world.
  • Sayyidah Rakayya Mosque – within its walls is the tomb where the daughter of the third Shia Imam, Hussein ibn Ali, is buried.
  • Tekeya al-Sulaimenakh Mosque (1554).
  • Chapel of St. Paul.
  • Al-Adiliyya Madrassah (13th century).
  • Hyp ad-Din Madrasah (12th century).
  • National Museum of Damascus – an exhibition on the history of Syria.
  • Azem Palace (18th century) – Former residence of the Ottoman ruler, now a museum.

Fun Facts

  • According to the New Testament, the city of Damascus is closely connected with the fate of St. Paul. According to legend, as a young man he took part in the persecution of Christians, but his life was changed completely when on his way to Damascus he heard a voice from on high. When he arrived in the city, he was baptized and began to preach Christianity.
  • There is reason to believe that settlements in the Damascus area existed as early as the Stone Age. Excavations in the suburbs of Tel Ramad have uncovered traces of a city dating back to the beginning of the 8th millennium BC. There is also evidence of a settlement in the Barada river basin that dates back to 9000 BC, which puts Damascus on par with Jericho, the oldest city in the world. The city`s authorities and residents, on their part, without waiting for scholarly recognition, put 9,000 B.C. as the date of Damascus` foundation.
  • Damascus is the name of a kind of steel which in the past was often used for edged weapons and in rare cases for armor. The peculiarity of damascene steel is the visible inhomogeneity of the surface of the material, the unusual colors and patterns on the steel. Damascene has been known since the reign of Alexander the Great, and up to now this kind of steel is still the subject of legends about its unprecedented durability. True, the origin of the name of the steel is still unclear: the blacksmiths of the city have never enjoyed the glory of skillful craftsmen.
  • Damascus is known for a special fabric. It is a linen over which a pattern of interlacing satin threads is created. The production of damask in the Syrian capital began in the Middle Ages, and the traditions of its manufacture are still alive today.
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