Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Damascus, the capital of Syria, is one of the most interesting cities of the world, both by reason of its antiquity and the part it has played in sacred history and for its pleasant situation and surroundings, which present a striking contrast to the rugged barrenness of the neighbouring districts. It is situated in a plain of 200 square miles, studded with towns and villages, having the chain of Anti-Libanus on the N.W., the Black Mountains on the S.. and extensive marshes on the E. The city is on the W. side of the plain, at an elevation of 2,260 feet, and near to a spur of Anti-Libanus, which rises to 3,840 feet. The river Abana or Barada - well known in connection with Naaman the Syrian - supplies the city with abundance of the purest water, which is distributed by a great network of canals. An area of 60 miles is covered with orchards, gardens, vineyards and fields. The old walled city lies to the S. of the river, and the "street which is called Straight" still separates the Jewish quarter on the S. from the Christian quarter on the N. On the W. is the 13th century citadel, and the 8th century mosque occupies the site of an ancient Christian church which usurped the place of a still older temple. Traces of the former are still to be found in the architecture and materials of the mosque. Damascus is still an emporium of overland trade, and its busy bazaars form an important and interesting feature. The mosque contains the reputed shrine of St. John the Baptist, and some valuable MSS. which are highly treasured, and one of its lofty minarets is called the "Jesus" minaret, and is said by tradition to be the point where Christ will appear to judge the world. The remains of ancient barbaric civilisation are everywhere to be seen side by side with the tokens of modern civilised barbarism. The population of 150,000 is mostly Mohammedan. The ancient city was devastated by Tamerlane, and at a later period by the Turks, becoming Mohammedan in 634. Until 1832 the Jews and the Christians were subject to many disabilities, and the great massacre of 1860 did much to undo the work of the most industrious part of the population. There is still some manufacture of silks and woollens, but the old industry of cutlery for which Damascus was famed seems to have died out. Sir Richard Burton delighted in Damascus, and his fame still survives there.