Damascus is the capital of Syria; it is also the country's largest city, following the decline in population of Aleppo due to the battle for the city. It is colloquially known in Syria as aš-Šām. Damascus is a major cultural center of the Levant and the Arab world. The city has an estimated population of 1,711,000 as of 2009.Located in south-western Syria, Damascus is the center of a large metropolitan area of 2.7 million people .
Geographically embedded on the eastern foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range 80 kilometres inland from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean on a plateau 680 metres above sea level, Damascus experiences a semi-arid climate because of the rain shadow effect. The Barada River flows through Damascus. First settled in the second millennium BC, it was chosen as the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate from 661 to 750. After the victory of the Abbasid dynasty, the seat of Islamic power was moved to Baghdad. Damascus saw a political decline throughout the Abbasid era, only to regain significant importance in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. Today, it is the seat of the central government and all of the government ministries. As of September 2019, 8 years since the start of the Syrian Civil War, Damascus has been named the world's least livable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Damascus, Arabic Dimashq, city, capital of Syria. Located in the southwestern corner of the country, it has been called the «pearl of the East,» praised for its beauty and lushness; the 10th-century traveler and geographer al-Maqdisī lauded the city as ranking among the four earthly paradises. Upon visiting the city in 1867, Mark Twain wrote:
“To Damascus, years are only moments, decades are only flitting trifles of time. She measures time not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise and prosper and crumble to ruin. She is a type of immortality”.
The city’s Arabic name derives from Dimashka, a word of possibly pre-Semitic etymology, suggesting that the beginnings of Damascus go back to a time before recorded history. The city is commonly called al-Shām, the vernacular name of Syria as a whole, which is said to mean “the left” or “the north,” where the region is situated relative to the Arabian Peninsula. Owing to associations of Damascus with Aram, the biblical capital of the Aramaeans, some Arabic sources link Damascus and the Iram dhāt al-ʿimād mentioned in the Qurʾān, an identification that has long been disputed. Also contended has been the association of Damascus with Jilliq, a fertile pre-Islamic site whose name derives from a word of unknown origin in use by the Ghassānids active there in the 6th century . The city is still known by its popular epithet al-Fayḥāʾ ,earned perhaps for the freshness of its surrounding orchards and gardens. Many scholars believe that, among the ancient cities of the world, Damascus is perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited.
Data and Facts
- The city is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, although evidence only exists dating back to 9000 BC in the Barada basin but not until the 2nd millennium BC in the area of Damascus
- Damascus was once a major centre for weaving and trading in textiles. Damask – using an ancient technique for weaving patterns into cloth – derives its name from the city
- Damascus is home to the only stock exchange in the country of Syria called the 'Damascus stock exchange'
- It is the second largest city in Syria next to Aleppo, with a population of approximately 1,711,000 as of 2009
- One of the oldest and biggest mosques in the world is located in Damascus called the 'Umayyad Mosque'
The municipality is administered as a muḥāfaẓah (governorate), one of 14 in the country. The president of Syria appoints a governor who administers the city with the assistance of a council made up of elected and appointed members. The city is divided into quarters (aḥyāʾ), each of which has a mayor appointed by the governor. The post of governor of Damascus is an important one with national implications. Political activity is national, not municipal, as Syria is a centralized state with one party dominating public affairs. The outlying portions of al-Ghūtah and a vast surrounding district constitute another governorate, Rīf Dimashq (Rural Damascus), of which Damascus city is the capital.Rapid population growth has put a strain on the city’s services, health facilities, and water supply. Damascus draws its water mainly from the Baradā River as well as other, smaller springs, receiving it through a centuries-old system that has been enlarged several times. At the beginning of the 21st century, increasing demand on established water sources forced a steep drop in the surrounding water table. As the water supply crisis grew more urgent, resources were rationed and plans were considered to supply the city with water from the Euphrates River or other sources. The city’s electricity is generated locally and also is brought from the hydroelectric station at the Euphrates Dam. Health care has been improving and is better than in much of the country. About half of the country’s doctors practice in the capital, dividing their services between government hospitals and private clinics. The ratio of hospital beds to population has been rising but is still low compared to more industrialized countries.
Government is Damascus’s most important economic activity. National politics and administration, including large military and secret services establishments, are centred there. Well-known over the centuries for luxurious manufactured wares, especially textiles, the growing city has attracted many new industries since the mid-20th century. All major factories and most strategic industries are state-run, but the private sector began in the 1990s to assert its economic agility in small, service-oriented industries. Textile plants, the chemical industry, cement works, and food-processing factories are principally distributed to the south, east, and northeast. Most of the population’s requirements for food, clothing, and the like are met by private businesses. Traditional artisan crafts such as copper engraving, mother-of-pearl-encrusted woodwork, and brocades are still practiced in the Old City.
The historical role of Damascus as a «desert port» has changed because of political developments and the scale of modern commerce. Goods are transshipped to countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Damascus distributes its own products and imported goods within Syria as well. A large international trade exposition is held there in the autumn. The potential for a highly profitable tourism sector—particularly cultural tourism, for which Damascus is well suited—has been modestly explored since the late 1980s through the active promotion and development of new accommodations and transportation facilities. Attempts to modernize the financial and banking systems and to liberalize trade that took place under Pres. Bashar al-Assad in the early 2000s largely lacked the vigour required for a measurable impact on the economy. After a series of delays, the country’s first stock exchange formally opened for trading in Damascus in March 2009.
The historical role that Damascus played as an important trade center has changed in recent years due to political development in the region as well as the development of modern trade. Damascus has also held an annual international trade exposition every fall, since 1954.he tourism industry in Damascus has a lot of potential, however the current civil war has hampered these prospects. The abundance of cultural wealth in Damascus has been modestly employed since the late 1980s with the development of many accommodation and transportation establishments and other related investments. Since the early 2000s, numerous boutique hotels and bustling cafes opened in the old city which attract plenty of European tourists and Damascenes alike.In 2009 new office space was built and became available on the real estate market. The real-estate sector is stopped due to the terrorism and exodus of the population.
Damascus is home to a wide range of industrial activity, such as textile, food processing, cement and various chemical industries. The majority of factories are run by the state, however limited privatization in addition to economic activities led by the private sector, were permitted starting in the early 2000s with the liberalization of trade that took place.
Being an entrepreneur in Syria is certainly not an enviable position, with more than three million of the country’s youth and children being forced outside of school, and an enrolment rate of only 38%. However, entrepreneurship is about thriving while having scarce resources, and spotting opportunities in places that might be considered disastrous. Some Syrian youth seem to have adopted this mindset and have formed successful startups in the fields of technology, education and others. Remmaz is an online interactive platform that teaches coding in Arabic and targets children aged 7 to 13. Both Darwish and Sultan studied at the University of Damascus, where they joined students’ clubs for coding and robotics. The platform now has over 8000 active users, with more than half of them coming from Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.Beeorder is a food delivery platform that operates in Damascus and boasts of 5000 active users since its launch last September. The app went through five versions of developments and cost the co-founders a staggering $150,000, having been worked on by 20 designers and programmers. In order to gain traction, Beeorder co-founders Abdel Malek Al-Mouzayen and Hadi Nahas went about convincing cafes and restaurants to install WiFi by showing them how effective vouchers and discounts can be in getting them customers. «We saw great opportunity in Damascus for the app where we had investment, high active users online , and a high number of restaurants and businesses,» Al-Mouzayen said. Invented by Damascus-based engineering student Yaman Abou Jeib, the machine allowed him to be the first Syrian to win at the Stars of Science show in Qatar. Abou Jeib, whose father is an engineer and runs a solar company himself, is now in negotiations with investors in Saudi Arabia and in Europe over the production and distribution of the washing machine.Mujeeb is an Arabic platform that allows users to build Arabic chatbots for their own use, such as for a website’s customer care section or instructive directions on a machines. Built by three computer engineering students, Agheed El Kabbani, Zeina Al Khaleely and Iyad Alshami, at the University of Damascus, Mujeeb took only a few months to be completed, and already has a functioning prototype in the testing phase.
The main airport is Damascus International Airport, approximately 20 km (12 mi) away from the city, with connections to a few Middle Eastern cities. Before the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the Airport had connectivity to many Asian, European, African, and South American cities. Streets in Damascus are often narrow, especially in the older parts of the city, and speed bumps are widely used to limit the speed of vehicles.
Public transport in Damascus depends extensively on minibuses. There are about one hundred lines that operate inside the city and some of them extend from the city center to nearby suburbs. There is no schedule for the lines, and due to the limited number of official bus stops, buses will usually stop wherever a passenger needs to get on or off. The number of buses serving the same line is relatively high, which minimizes the waiting time. Lines are not numbered, rather they are given captions mostly indicating the two end points and possibly an important station along the line.
Served by Chemins de Fer Syriens, the former main railway station of Damascus was al-Hejaz railway station, about 1 km (5⁄8 mi) west of the old city. The station is now defunct and the tracks have been removed, but there still is a ticket counter and a shuttle to Damacus Kadam station in the south of the city, which now functions as the main railway station.
In 2008, the government announced a plan to construct a Damascus Metro with opening time for the green line scheduled for 2015. The green line will be an essential West-East axis for the future public transportation network, serving Moadamiyeh, Sumariyeh, Mezzeh, Damascus University, Hijaz, the Old City, Abbassiyeen and Qaboun Pullman bus station. A four-line metro network is expected to be in operation by 2050.
The earliest colleges founded in Syria were the School of Medicine and the Institute of Law . The university education was founded in 1919 on a free of charge basis. The Ministry of Higher Education was established in 1966 to supervise the scientific and educational institutions, such as universities, academic councils, the Arabic Language Academy and educational hospitals.
Most post-secondary education is state-provided, but legislation passed in 2001 allows the establishment of some private universities and colleges. If not, the student may opt to pay higher fees to enroll. There are some private schools and colleges but their fees are much higher.
Domestic policies emphasize engineering and medicine in Syria’s universities, with less emphasis on the arts, law, and business.
First stage: the License awarded after four to six years depending on the field.
20 private universities have been given licenses, 14 of which have actually opened and 6 to be opened soon.
Private universities will have an independent academic and management structure representing the owner and will be headed by the president of the university. There will also be a university board consisting of either: chancellor, faculty or division. The Centre for Measurement and Evaluation in Higher Education , which was established in 2012, assesses the performance of students, programs, and educational institutions. The centre was founded to set clear criteria for cross-border certificates based on the methodology, techniques and institutional standard measurement tools. its aim is to measure knowledge, skills and attitudes in a scientific way, to ensure the quality of higher education outputs to meet developmental needs.In September 2002, the first virtual university was founded. through which students can obtain degrees from international institutions.
Social Wellness and Human Resources
The estimated population of Damascus in 2011 was 1,711,000. Damascus is the center of an over-crowded metropolitan area with an estimated population of 5 million. The metropolitan area of Damascus includes the cities of Douma, Harasta, Darayya, Al-Tall and Jaramana.
The city's growth rate is higher than Syria as a whole, primarily due to rural-urban migration and the influx of young Syrian migrants drawn by employment and educational opportunities.
The migration of Syrian youths to Damascus has resulted in an average age within the city that is below the national average. Nonetheless, the population of Damascus is thought to have decreased in recent years as a result of the ongoing Syrian Civil War.The vast majority of Damascenes are Syrian Arabs. Among the city's minorities is a small Palestinian community. Islam is the dominant religion. The majority of Muslims are Sunni while Alawites and Twelver Shi'a comprise sizeable minorities. Alawites live primarily in the Mezzeh districts of Mezzeh 86 and Sumariyah. Twelvers primarily live near the Shia holy sites of Sayyidah Ruqayya and Sayyidah Zaynab. It is believed that there are more than 200 mosques in Damascus, the most well-known being the Umayyad Mosque. Christians represent about 15%–20% of the population. Several Eastern Christian rites have their headquarters in Damascus, including the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. Each have many churches, most notably the ancient Chapel of Saint Paul and St Georges Cathedral in Bab Tuma. At the suburb of Soufanieh a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary have reportedly been observed between 1982 and 2004. A smaller Druze minority inhabits the city, notably in the mixed Christian-Druze suburbs of Tadamon, Jaramana, and Sahnaya. The Patriarchal See of the Syriac Orthodox is based in Damascus, Bab Toma. This church is independent of the Middle Eastern-based Syriac Orthodox Church in Damascus and has its own leadership and structure in India, although both practice the same or similar denomination of Christianity. There are 700,000 members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Syria, who are the bulk of the Christian population alongside 400,000 Assyrians/Syriacs and 30-100,000 Armenians.
There was a small Jewish community namely in what is called Haret al-Yahud the Jewish quarter.
Arabic: دمشقي Dimashqi