Damascus (Arabic: دمشق Dimašq, Dimašq al-Šam, al-Šam; Tiberian Hebrew דמשק Damméśeq/Dammāśeq, Standard Hebrew Damméseq/Dammáseq) is the capital of Syria. It is one of the world's oldest cities. According to the New Testament, St. Paul was on the road to Damascus when he received a vision, was struck blind and as a result converted to Christianity. The city is therefore a centre of both Christian and Muslim faith.
Damascus steel gained a legendary reputation among the Crusaders, and patterned steel is still "damascened". The patterned Byzantine and Chinese silks available through Damascus, one of the Western termini of the Silk Road, gave the English language damask.
Major sights of Damascus include:
Damascus, settled about 2500 BC, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. It was the capital of a powerful Aramaic state in the 9th and 8th Centuries BC, before being captured and sacked by the Assyrians. At that point, it lost its independence for hundreds of years, falling under Neo-Babylonian, Persian, Seleucid, and Roman rule. During Roman times Damascus was considered such an important center of Greco-Roman culture that it was made an honorary member of the Decapolis league of cities. Damascus was conquered by the Caliph Omar in AD 636. Immediately thereafter, the city's power and prestige reached its peak when it became the capital of the Omayyad Empire, which extended from Spain to India from AD 661 to AD 750, when the Abbasid caliphate was established at Baghdad, Iraq. Damascus is the largest city of Syria, with a population (1995 estimate) of 1,751,000. Other major cities include Aleppo (1992 estimate, 1,745,000), Homs (518,000), Latakia (284,000), and Hama (254,000).
After this, Damascus was ruled from Baghdad, and then, for a time, by the Fatimid Caliphs in Cairo. With the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the late 11th Century, Damascus again became the capital of independent states. It was ruled by a Seljuk dynasty from 1079 to 1104, and then by another Turkish dynasty - the Burid Emirs, until 1154. In that year it was conquered by the famous Zengid Atabeg Nur ad-Din of Aleppo, the great foe of the Crusaders, who made it his capital. Following the death of Nur ed-Din, it was acquired by Saladin, the ruler of Egypt, who also made it his capital. In the years following Saladin's death, there were frequent conflicts between different Ayyubid sultans ruling in Damascus and Cairo.
Ayyubid rule (and independence) came to an end with the Mongol invasion of Syria in 1260, and Damascus became a provincial capital of the Mameluke Empire following the Mongol withdrawal. It was largely destroyed in 1400 by Tamerlane, the Mongol conqueror, who removed many of its craftsmen to Samarkand. Rebuilt, it continued to serve as a provincial capital until 1516. In 1517, it fell under Ottoman rule. The Ottomans remained for the next 400 years, except for a brief occupation by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt from 1832 to 1840.
In 1918, Damascus was captured by the British and their Arab allies at the end of the First World War. An attempt to create an Arab kingdom under the Emir Faisal was defeated by the French in 1920, who made Damascus the capital of their League of Nations Mandate of Syria. When Syria became independent in 1946, Damascus remained the capital.
Inhabitants of Damascus refer to their city as ash-Sham.