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  • Date :
  • 7/9/2003

Damascus

Capital of Syria , with 2.4 million inhabitants ( 2002 estimate ) .

Damascus 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.

History

Damascus is known to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. There is firm evidence that in the third millennium BC, Damascus was a population center of a civilization that was considerably prosperous and economically influential. The earliest reference to the city was found in the archaeological site of Ebla in 1975; where the word "Damaski" was found on one of the clay tablets. Some historians believe that the city actually dates back to the seventh millennium BC.
The first mention of Damascus is in Egyptian records of four thousand years ago, as a city conquered in the 15th century BC by the Pharaoh Thutmosis III. According to the Old Testament, it was once the capital of the Aramean Kingdom in the 11th Century BC. In the 10th Century BC, it started being attacked and it was in battle with several other kingdoms including the Hebrews and Assyrians.
After 1200 BC the kingdom of Damascus became a powerful state that long defied Assyria. Finally, in 732 BC, it was taken over by Tiglath Pileser II ordered by the King of Judea, Achaz. Some years after the fall of the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, the Kingdom of Damascus was destroyed by Babylon. Damascus was conquered in 333 BC by Parmenion, one of Alexander's lieutenants, who took it from the Persians. It later fell to the Seleucids who fell into dispute with a branch of the empire of the Macedonian conqueror, the Lagides, who ruled Egypt. In 66 BC it was occupied by Pompey and belonged to the province of Syria.

  At the beginning of this era, St. Paul was sent to put down the Christians; he had the revelation of faith. He was directed by Jesus (in the vision of light) to the house of Judas. There he met Ananias and together they preached for Christ.

Under the Byzantine Empire, Damascus was an important base for watching over the Syrian Desert, but it was fatally looted by the Sassanid Persians. Damascus was later besieged by the Muslim faith fighters in 635 AD, and was retaken by Khaled Ibn al Waleed in 636. This meant a radical change of civilization for this city as it swung from Byzantium and Christianity to the Orient and the Semitic world. This marked the beginning of the city’s golden age which reached its apex in 661, when it became the capital of the Great Arab Empire that stretched from Spain to India, under the Umayyad Dynasty.

Damascus was the most important centre of Arab Islamic culture before it lost most of its importance to Baghdad in 750. This golden age ended with the Abbasids who moved the Capital to Baghdad. From then on, it fell under the power of various Muslim sects and sovereigns, the most important of which was the Egyptian Fatimids. It later went through another rich period, when Saladin took it from the Fatimids and started the Ayyubid Dynasty. At the time it was battling against the Franks (the Crusaders). Numerous monuments built by Nur al Din and Saladin are still the pride of Damascus.

In 1260 it was taken over by the Mamlukes of Egypt who pushed the Mongols back. The city was captured by the Ottoman Sultan Salim I in 1516 and the Ottoman occupation lasted for the next four centuries, until World War I.

After World War I, a very exhausted Damascus was liberated in 1918, by an Arab contingent under the command of the British Army of General Allenby. The Syrian National Congress was formed in 1919 under the patronage of Emir Faisal who came from Hedjaz. He was named King of Syria in 1920, but British and France had their own different plans, and one month later was taken over by the French in the name of the League of Nations. However, the Syrian people decided to resist.
In 1925, the Great Syrian Revolution against the French was launched from Jabal-al-Arab. Many battles between the revolts and the French troops took place in the farms of al-Ghouta outside Damascus. The city was bombarded by the French and parts of it were severely damaged. Again in 1945, the French carried out a similar aggression against the Syrian Parliament buildings in Damascus.
After resistance and a few uprisings, Syria was proclaimed Independent by the French general, Catroux, on September 16th 1941. This however was not taken into effect until 1946 and since then has been considerably developed and industrialized while its political role was strengthened thanks to an increased centralization.

The Syrian capital had witnessed great changes during the past 50 years. Much modernization had occurred.

Damascus Timeline

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 conquered 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 the entire 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 economical 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 immigrate, 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 bombard Damascus in order to quell an uprising.
1946 April: The mandate comes to an end, and Damascus becomes capital of Syria

Attractions and historical building

Now, Damascus is a wonderful mixture of old and new. In the modern part of the city there are up-to-date homes, hotels and government buildings. Whereas in the Old City, you can watch the graceful minarets and domes of more than 200 mosques rise above the famous one-story Damascene houses.

Damascus is famous for its bazaars. Bazaars are streets lined with shops, stalls and cafes. One of these is the Called “Street Straight”, mentioned in the Bible in connection with St. Paul’s conversion to Christianity.

The tomb of John the Baptist (Prophet Yahia in the Qur'an) is situated in the Grand Umayyad Mosque in the centre of the old city.

The Umayyad Mosque is the symbol of Damascus. Built by Caliphate Al-Walid I in the 7th century, this mosque is a wonderful example for Islamic art and architecture.
The plan of the mosque is quite simple; there is a magnificent courtyard which is heavily decorated by mosaics. In the middle of the courtyard are the Dome of the hours, the ablutions fountain, and the beautifully decorated Dome of the treasure.

This mosque is one of the few mosques that has three minarets, Minaret of the Bride (9th and 12th centuries), Minaret of Qat Bey (15th century), and the Minaret of Jesus (13th century).

The shrine of Sayedeh Zeinab in Damascus is among the holiest religious sites for the Shi'ites .

Other historic monuments in Damascus include the Azem Palace, a typical Damascene house of the 18th century.

The Azem Palace was built, in the 18th century, as a palatial residence for Asad Pasha al-Azem, Ottoman governor ofDamascus for 14 years. It is considered a great example of Damascene houses.
"The Tekkiye Mosque Complex -The mosque itself is the finest Ottoman monument in the city. It was built at the order of Suleiman the Magnificent, was planned by the Architect Sinan and was built mostly by Christian masons and architects who had converted to Islam.
The buildings that surround the mosque's courtyard were also built and planned by Sinan. They were built originally as accommodation for the Dervishes, who are known for their religious chants and whirling. It was used later as a khan to house pilgrims who were on their way toMecca. On the east side is a Koranic School called the Selimiye Madrasa, which was built between 1566 and 1574.
The National Museum of Damascus  contains a world-class archaeological and historical collection. There are two wings to this Museum, the east wing and the west wing. The west wing contains pre-classical and Arab Islamic collections, and the east wing contains Classical and Byzantine collections. The façade of this museum is fragments of the twin-towered gateway of Qasr al Heir.
The most popular part of the museum is the 2nd century AD Synagogue that has been reconstructed. Its walls are covered with Talmudic injunctions and paintings of human figures that are in scenes from the Scriptures. Taken from:
http://i-cias.com/e.o/damascus.htm
http://www.homsonline.com/Citeis/Damascus.htm
http://www.syriagate.com/Syria/about/cities/Damascus

http://syria.arabicnet.com/damas.asp

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