Damascus is the capital of Syria and its largest city, with about 4.5 million people.
Established between 10,000 to 8,000BC, Damascus is credited with being the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. The old-walled city, in particular, feels very ancient and largely consists of a maze of narrow alleys, punctuated by enigmatic doors that lead into pleasing, verdant courtyards and blank-faced houses. The old city still has an authentic medieval feel to it, although this is vanishing fast due to the increasing tourist traffic as the city continues to be highlighted as an attraction. Life, however, goes on in the old-walled city, which is still the religious and social centre of the city.
Located in south-western Syria, Damascus is the center of a large metropolitan area of 6 million people (2009). Geographically embedded on the eastern foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range 80 kilometres (50 mi) inland from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean on a plateau 680 metres (2,230 ft) above sea-level, Damascus experiences a semi-arid climate due to the rain shadow effect. The Barada River flows through Damascus.
First settled in the 2nd 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. During Ottoman rule, the city decayed completely while maintaining a certain cultural prestige. Today, it is the seat of the central government and all of the government ministries. Damascus was chosen as the 2008 Arab Capital of Culture.
Damascus has a semi-arid Mediterranean climate semi-arid climate (Köppen Bwh), due to the rain shadow effect of the Anti-Lebanon mountains and the prevailing ocean currents. Summers are dry and hot with less humidity. Winters are mild and comparatively rainy, sometimes snowy. Annual rainfall is around 288 mm (11.3 in), occurring from September to May.