DAMASCUS (in Arabic, "Dimashq") is the capital and chief city of SYRIA, with a population of 1.7 million people (2002).
The ancient city is also known in Arabic as "as-Sham" meaning "the Northern," indicating its geographical position north of the traditional Arab homelands.
Damascus is situated in the Ghutah Oasis on a plateau 2,263 ft (690 m) above sea level in southwestern Syria.
The city is bisected by the Barada River, which separates the old city to the south from the newer, more modern city to the north.
It lies just northeast of Mount Hermon (7,164 ft or 2,184 m), the highest point in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains that form part of Syria's eastern border with neighboring LEBANON.
To the east of the city lies the DESERT.
Damascus is only a two-hour drive from the MEDITERRANEAN coast, which is just beyond the Anti- Lebanon and Lebanon mountains to the east.
Annual rainfall in the area ranges between 6 in (15 cm) and 7.87 in (20 cm), falling mainly between November and February.
Although temperatures in the summer can exceed 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), the summer average is around 80.5 degrees F (27 degrees C) at the most.
Winters are generally cold, averaging 41 degrees F (5 degrees C).
Damascus has been inhabited since prehistoric times and is considered by some to be the oldest continuously occupied city in the world.
The first mention of Damascus is in Egyptian records, when the Pharaoh Thutmosis III conquered the city in the 15th century B.C.E.
In 333 B.C.E., Damascus was conquered by one of Alexander's lieutenants, who took it from the Persians.
From 661 to 750 C.E., Damascus was the center of Islam and capital of the Great Omayyad Empire that stretched from Spain to India.
In 1260 the city fell to the Mongols under Hulagu Khan, then fell again to the Mamluks following the Mongol withdrawal.
In 1516, the city was captured by the Ottoman Sultan Salim I and remained part of the Ottoman Empire for the next four centuries.
At the end of World War II, the city was freed from Ottoman control by an Arab contingent under the command of the British.
Damascus became the capital of an independent Syria (from FRANCE) in 1941, although it did not officially take effect until 1946.
Damascus is made up of a sizeable old city, divided into the market area, the Muslim area, the Christian area and the Jewish area.
The greatest part of the city, including the rectangular ancient city, is on the south bank of the Barada River, while the newer more modern suburbs lie to the north.
Damascus has more than 200 mosques, but only 70 are still in use today.
Of these, the Umayyad or Grand Mosque is the most famous, located just east of the Citadel and north of the Azem Palace in the old city.
Damascus is famous for its bazaars-streets lined with shops, stalls, and cafes.
One such bazaar called "Street Straight" (in contrast to the typically narrow, crooked layout) is even mentioned in the Bible in connection with St.
Paul's conversion to Christianity.
Damascus has long been an important commercial center.
In former times it was famous for dried fruit, wine, wool, linens, silks, and damask, a type of patterned fabric, named for the silk fabrics woven in Damascus.
The city was also notable for the manufacture of damascened steel, the exceptionally hard and resilient steel used in making sword blades.
Today the city is the trading center for figs, almonds, and other fruit produced in the surrounding region.
Industries in Damascus include handicrafts, such as the weaving of silk cloth and the making of leather goods, filigreed gold and silver objects, and inlaid wooden, copper, and brass articles.
Among the city's other manufactures are processed textiles, metalware, refined sugar, glass, furniture, cement, leather goods, preserves, confections, and matches.
- The smog has affected tourists’ plans in Thailand
"Several flights were canceled due to the smoke.
The wildfires are storming around in Indonesia, the smoke of which extends 100 km away. Due to the wind direction smog has covered Phuket and Samui, the Thai’s islands. It is said that the smoke is neither life nor health threatening for tourists. There is no burning smell as well. Nevertheless, the tourists are not recommended to go in for sports outdoors. One of the country’s media centre states that the Phuket Island community has sent an open letter to the authorities of Thailand asking about taking steps on the smog elimination. According to what they say, the south part of the country is covered by the poisonous smoke that can cause development of various diseases among the local population. Also the islanders say that smog crashes the tourists’ plans that they cannot fly out because of the flight cancellation. For instance, only five airplanes that took off from Bangkok flying to Phuket and Samui were asked to make a reverse just in the air because of the low visibility conditions. "
- Will it be possible for tourists to access the most Jerusalem’s holy sites?
"Police is limiting the access beyond the fortress walls of the Old City due to the following clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.
Following the accident in which a Palestinian has killed two people on the street in Jerusalem and his brother has stabbed the Israeli teenager the mass uprisings have begun. Being afraid of the clashes between Israelis and Palestinians police has made a decision that only local residents are allowed to visit the Old City. This also refers to the tourists only if they stayed in the hotels located in the old part of the city.
Other tourists wishing to enter the Old City will not be able to visit it. And this is the place where the main Holy land sites are located: the temple “of the Holy Sepulcher”, the Wailing Wall, the Via Dolorosa, the Citadel of David with its museum of city history, crusaders’ street, the Temple Mount with the Al-Aqsa golden-domed mosque. The authorities report that it is likely that tomorrow everyone will be welcomed to enter."