Syria / Cities and Towns /
Capital of Syria, with 1.95 million inhabitants (2002 estimate).
One of the landmarks, the railway station of the Hijaz Railway. This was built to go as far as Mecca, but was never completed because of war and popular resistance.
Where the Hamadiya Souk ends and the Umayyad Mosque begins, fragments of Damascus' Roman past is found. This structure is neutralled called the Roman Arch.
Damascus is situated on a plateau 690 metres above sea level, bordered by the Anti-Lebanon Mountains to the west, and the desert to the east. Damascus lies in the Ghutah oasis, and is fed with water by the Barada river. It lies apparently close to the Mediterranean Sea, but the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges make the 80 km into a journey of 2-3 hours. Damascus has an annual rainfall of between 150 mm and 200 mm, mainly falling between November and February. Winters are generally cold, with daily averages of as low as 5ºC. Summer average are 27ºC at the most, but temperatures often get higher than 40ºC.
The name "Damascus" comes from the pre-Semitic "Dimashka". The city is in Arabic also known as "as-Sham" meaning "The Northern", indicating is geographical position north of the Arab homelands.
Damascus is one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities, and reports run back at least 3,500 years. Many claim that Damascus is the oldest continued inhabited city in the world. While modern Damascus is a standard Middle Eastern city, it was famous for centuries, and often referred to as the "pearl of the East".
Damascus is made up of a sizeable old city, divided into the market area, Muslim area, Christian area and the Jewish area. All three groups are still represented in Damascus, even if the Jewish community now only counts a few thousand.
The modern city is mainly grey with little green, and most of the modern buildings are influenced by Syria's weak economy.
Damascus has a university, many museums, and embassies.
The economy of Damascus is based upon governmental administrative activities, processed food, clothing, and printed material.
Damascus still holds traditional handicrafts up, such as high quality textiles, silk cloth, leather goods, filigreed gold, silver objects, inlaid wooden, copper, and brass articles.
The Ghutah oasis produces fruits including olives and grapes, cereals and vegetables. Among the livestock are cows, goats and sheep.
Damascus was from 661 to 750 the centre of Islam, when the Caliph used it as centre of administration. This history is notable with buildings like the Umayyad mosque.
Damascus has more than 200 mosques, but only 70 are still in use. In addition to the Grand Mosque, the mosques of Sinani-yah and Tekkeyah are notable.
3 daily newspaper are published from Damascus, all closely controlled by the Syrian state. A larger number of magazines, as well as much of Syria's book publication are issued from Damascus.
Damascus importance as a trading hub has been reduced over the centuries, and much of the trade that went through the city now uses the modern means of transportation. While Syria's main port used to be Beirut to the west of Damascus, this role is now played by Latakia to the north, which lies much closer to Aleppo.
The earlier so important trans-desert transport has totally been replaced by overseas transport.
Damascus is well connected to the rest of the country with highways, as well as with Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. An international airport lies 20 km east of the city centre, and is well connected to other international airports.
The local administration of Damascus is closely tied to the national. The governor of Damascus plays a role even in national affairs, and most important issues of Damascus are dealt with by the national administration.
4th millennium BCE: Earliest traces of urban settlement near Damascus.
15th century: According to Egyptian tablets, a region called "Dimashka" was conquered by the Egyptians.
10th century: Dimashka is subjugated by King David of Judah and Israel.
732: Dimashka is conquered by the Assyrians.
7th century: Dimashka is conquered by the Babylonians.
6th century: Dimashka is conquered by the Persians.
333: Dimashka is conquerd by the Macedonians.
323: Dimashka becomes part of the Seleucid kingdom.
64: Dimashka is conquered by the Romans.
1st century: Christianity is introduced into Damascus, and it becomes an important Christian town.
4th century: Dimashka becomes part of the Byzantine Empire following the division of the Roman Empire.
635: Dimashka, a weak city state following years of wars, becomes an easy, if not unwilling, prey for Muslim Arab troops.
661: Damascus becomes capital of the Caliph, hence centre of the Muslim world.
705: The construction of the Great Mosque is started, aiming at becoming the greatest mosque of all the Muslim world.
750: The Caliphate is moved from Damascus to Mesopotamia, with the start of the development of the new city of Baghdad. From this time on, Damascus is neglected and loses its international importance.
1076: Seljuq Turks take control over Damascus, making it one of their most important cities.
1154: The Seljuq Nureddin captures Damascus, and makes it the capital of his growing empire. Centuries of prosperity would follow.
1401: Timur Lenk captures Damascus and pillages the city. He forced many of the artisans and workmen to move to Samarkand. Some decades of economic weakness would follow.
1516: Damascus becomes part of the Ottoman Empire. The city would remain an important commercial city.
1831: Damascus comes under Egyptian control of Muhammad Ali.
1860: A Muslim uprising results in destruction of large parts of the Christian quarters and the death of many Christians. Many survivors choose to emigrate, mainly to the Americas.
1903: The University of Damascus is founded.
1918 September: With the defeat in the World War 1, the Ottomans leave Damascus.
1919: Damascus is declared capital of the new state of Syria.
The Arab Academy is founded.
1920: French army takes control over Damascus in their campaign of establishing a mandate by the League of Nations.
1925: French troops bombards Damascus in order to quell an uprising.
1946 April: The mandate comes to an end, and Damascus becomes capital of Syria.