Damascus, commonly known as al-Shaam, is also known as the “City of Jasmine” Arabic: (Madinatul Yasmin) It is the capital and largest city of Syria, as well as one of the country’s 14 governorates. Damascus, a major cultural and religious center of the Levant, is widely known as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
Located in southwestern Syria, it is the center of a large metropolitan area of four million people. Damascus experiences a semi-arid climate due to the rain shadow effect. The Barada River flows through Damascus.
First settled in the 2nd millennium BC, it was chosen as the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate from 661-750. The seat of Islamic power was moved to Baghdad after the victory of the Abbasid dynasty. After a political decline throughout the Abbasid era, Damascus regained significant importance in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. During Ottoman rule, the city decayed completely while maintaining a certain cultural prestige. Damascus was chosen as the 2008 Arab Capital of Culture.
On entering an old souk (bazaar) in Syria, you will realize that history is something living and tangible, something you can see, touch and smell. A journey through old Damascus is a journey into both the past and the present at the same time. Under a Roman arch, built centuries before Christ, you might find a shop selling the latest electronic gadgets. Or you may pass an Ottoman caravanserai, bustling under its evocative Arabesque designs with present-day commercial activity.
The journey to Dimashq had a profound and incredibly moving effect on me because of the strength of its history. It was interesting to note that although most of the cities and towns from biblical times have fallen into ruin, Dimashq has endured the test of time and still enraptures all those who tread its soil. The radiant energy prevalent in Dimashq was unique and such as I have not experienced elsewhere.
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