Damascus: gateway to the desert

Damascus is the capital of Syria and also its biggest city. Situated on a terrace on the edge of the desert, at the foot of Mount Qasiyun, one hundred or so kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea, it is on the same latitude as Baghdad and Fez. The Barada River allowed farming communities to thrive despite the arid climate. This earned Damascus and its hinterland a place among the three earthly paradises lauded in Arabic literature. The first evidence of urban occupation dates from the 4th millennium BCE.

Damascus: imperial capital

On the eve of the Arab conquest, the city was neglected by its Byzantine masters, who preferred Antioch as their region capital, and the Arab conquest of 635 may not have been unwelcomed by its inhabitants. The founder of the great mosque of the Umayyads in Damascus is one of its finest examples.