What to See in Damascus (Syria)

By | July 9, 2022

According to ITYPEMBA, Damascus is located in the southwestern part of Syria at the foot of Mount Qasyun (1155 m) on the Barada River. This is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. For the first time in the annals it is mentioned in the 15th century BC, in addition, Damascus and its environs are described more than once in the Bible. Damascus throughout its history was a major trading center, which was located at the crossroads of important trade routes.

Old city of Damascus included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, because there are many monuments that belong to different eras of the rich history of the city. The old city is surrounded by 5 km of the fortress wall, which was built under the Romans. Inside the walls are narrow streets, bustling markets, mosques, churches and other attractions. Along the perimeter of the fortress wall, 7 gates have been preserved, the most ancient of which date back to the Roman period. These are Al-Faraj, Al-Faradis, Al-Salam, Al-Jabiya, Tuma, Shargi and Kisan. The Kisan gate is located in the southeastern part of the fortress wall. It is believed that it was through them that the Apostle Paul left Damascus. Today, passage through the gate is closed, and the chapel of St. Paul installed here reminds of the past of these places. Tuma Gate is the entrance to the main craft district of the city, through which King Faisal Street runs.

Behind the Al-Jabiya gate, which are located in the southwestern part of the fortress wall, is the Midhat Pasha market – the main trading square of the capital, which was named after the famous Turkish governor. From the market originates Shargi Avenue, filled with shops, which in turn rests on the gate of the same name. Under the Romans, the Midhat Pasha market and Shargi Avenue were a long street stretching from west to east. This street was called Via Recta, which in Latin means “Straight Street”, and was the main street of the city. Many biblical events took place on it. At the end of Shargi Avenue is the underground church of St. Ananias of the 1st century, where the Apostle Paul was baptized. Paul was converted to the faith by the Christian Jew Ananias, who delivered Paul from the blindness sent to him by God for the persecution of Christians. This is the only Christian church that has survived from the 1st century AD. Here are stored icons that tell about the conversion of Paul to Christianity.

A little to the north is the old Christian quarter of Tuma., next to which the gates of the same name are located. Tuma is the Arabic version of Thomas. The Tuma quarter is the oldest quarter of the capital, it was named after the Apostle Thomas. In the 14th century it was the center of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches in the northern part of Central Asia. Today, the Christian Quarter is home to many bars and restaurants. In the very center of the Old City is one of the largest mosques in the world – the Umayyad Mosque. It was built on the site of the ancient church of John the Baptist between 706 and 715, after the conquest of Damascus. Arabs. Its prototype was the Mohammed Mosque in Medina. Today it is one of the main shrines of the Arab world and a place of pilgrimage for Muslims. Inside the mosque is decorated with mosaics, among which are fragments of ancient golden mosaics, and carpets are spread on its floor. It is believed that earlier in the mosque there was one of the largest golden mosaics in the world with an area of ​​4000 square meters. m, which was carried out by 12 thousand craftsmen. A fire in 1893 destroyed most of them, and some were rebuilt. Inside the mosque is the chapel of John the Baptist, according to legend, the head of this saint is kept here. Next to the mosque is a sacred place where, according to legend, the head of Imam Hussein (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) is buried, and the mausoleum of Saladin, which stopped the advance of the crusaders to the east in the 12th century. In the Old City, it is also worth seeing Al-Azem Palace of 1749, which served as the residence of the Turkish wali (high-ranking official). This is one of the most beautiful palaces in the Old City. Now the Museum of Art and Folk Traditions is located here. The street on which the palace stands leads to the perfume market. Also, in the Old City there are such shrines of the Muslim world as the tomb of Zeinab, where the granddaughter of the prophet Muhammad is buried, and the tomb of Seyida, the great-granddaughter of Muhammad. The Bab Sagyr cemetery contains the graves of historical figures.

Be sure to check out the bustling markets of Damascus, which are called souk in Arabic. There are a myriad of them here. In addition to the Midhat Pasha market, it is worth visiting the largest spice market Bzuria, one of the largest markets in the East – Al Hamidiya and many handicraft bazaars.

One of the main attractions of the New Town is the National Museum, where the entire history of the country can be traced. Museum collections began to form in 1919, and in 1936 a separate building was built for the museum. The expositions of the museum are located in 4 halls. In the hall of the prehistoric era, you can see fossilized plants and animal skeletons, in the hall of ancient Syria – exhibits from excavation sites, for example, from such an ancient state as Ebla, and the first samples of writing from Ugarit, in the hall of the classical period – exhibits related to the Roman, Greek and Byzantine eras (rare statues, stone and marble sarcophagi, etc.), in the hall of the Islamic period – frescoes, glass and metal products, coins, scriptures and household items of the Arabs. The most popular exhibit of the museum is the layout of the Jewish synagogue of the 2nd-3rd centuries from the ancient city-state of Dura-Europos.

Also in the New City, the Taqiya al-Suleimania Mosque of the mid-16th century will be of interest. Now it houses the Military Museum and the craft market.

In Damascus, excursions to the top of Mount Qasyun are offered. In the mountain is the cave of Magarat ad-Damm, where, according to legend, the biblical character Cain killed his brother Abel.

Not far from Damascus in the mountains there are small resorts where Syrians and residents of neighboring countries like to relax both in summer and in winter. The most popular resorts are Zabadani, Bludan, Madaya and Bukayn. In summer, there is no sweltering heat, and the nearby forests with numerous springs are perfect for relaxing. In winter, from late December to early March, these resorts attract skiers, despite the fact that there are no equipped slopes and ski lifts.

22 km from Damascus in the city of Syednaya at an altitude of 1450 m is the Orthodox monastery of the Mother of God of Saednai, where a miraculous icon is kept, which, according to legend, was painted by St. Luke. Not far from here is the small town of Maalula, mostly Christians live here, and this is the only place in the world where Western Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, is still spoken. In Maaloula, on a rock, stands the convent of St. Thekla. On the territory of the monastery there is a cave, inside of which there is a chapel, where, according to legend, Saint Thekla is buried. Also interesting in Maalula is the Church of St. Sergius of the 4th century with icons of Arab saints of the 17th-18th centuries. Suwayda is located 90 km southeast of Damascus., famous for its surrounding vineyards. Suwayda is located at an altitude of 1100 m. From the Nabataean language, the name of the city is translated as “a small black town”, because in ancient times all its buildings were built of black basalt. The city museum contains mosaics of the 6th century, which were found here during archaeological excavations. Also in Suweida, the ruins of a Roman temple from the 3rd century and the colonnade surrounding it have been preserved. Not far from here, about 20 km, is the city of Daraa. The first mention of it dates back to the 15th century BC. Ancient dwellings, a Roman amphitheater, the remains of Roman baths and black basalt sculptures have been found in the city. From Dara you can go to the ruins of the ancient city of Bosra, which are located near the border with Jordan. It was the first city Syria who converted to Islam. Bosra has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1980. Built from black basalt, the city was once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia. The main attraction of Bosra is the Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century AD. for 15 thousand seats. In the 5th century, it was fortified with 9 towers and a moat, that is, it turned into a citadel. Inside the citadel you can see many buildings of the Roman and Byzantine periods, as well as monuments of Muslim architecture. Every summer, the amphitheater of Bosra hosts the Folklore Festival.

Damascus (Syria)