History and Archaeology of Damascus


Damascus (دمشق) is the capital of Syria, colloquially known in Syria as aš-Šām (الشام) and titled the "City of Jasmine" (مدينة الياسمين). First settled in the second millennium BCE, 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.

Featured Article: Sundial of Umayyad Mosque

The sundial is the oldest polar-axis sundial still in existence. Ibn al-Shatir also invented a timekeeping device called "ṣandūq al-yawāqīt" (jewel box), which incorporates both a universal sundial and a magnetic compass. He invented it for the purpose of finding the times of prayers. The idea of using hours of equal time length throughout the year was the innovation of Ibn al-Shatir in 1371, based on earlier developments in trigonometry by al-Battānī.

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The historic Damascus Gate of Jerusalem built during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificient is not only named after the city of Damascus, but also faces it. At one time a road leaving Damascus Gate of Jerusalem led to the ancient city of Damascus, Syria via Sichem.

Historically the gate was also known as the Bab al-'Amud (gate of the column), referring to the Hadrian's column built in the first half of the scond century CE. It is the only gate of Jerusalem to have preserved the same name since at least the 10th century (i.e. Bab al-Amud).

Photograph: Unknown author, circa 1940 CE.

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