Friday, June 19, 2009
Is the capital of Syria, with 1.95 million inhabitants (2002 estimate).
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.