The city of Damascus , The Damascus province , Sweida , Dara’a , Qunetra.
Damascus Damascus is the oldest continuously ihabited city in the world . It has occupied of importance in the fields of science , culture , politics , art , commerce , and industry from the earliest times . It has been called ‘’ al-Fayha ‘’ ( the fragrant city ) , al-Sham, Jollaq , and ‘’ Pearl of the Orient ‘’ as the Emperor Julian named it . It was mentioned in the Holy Qur’an as the many-columned city of Arma , whose like has never been built in the land . Early references to the city , such as those in the Ebla tablets , confirm that ‘ Dameski ‘ ( Damascus ) during the third millennium B.C was as a city of immense economic influence . www.tartoos.com Ancient pharaonic scripts refer to it as ‘ Damaska’ . It enjoyed great prominence during the second millennium B.C as the center of an Aramaic kingdom under the name of ‘ Dar-misiq ‘ ( the irrigated house ) . The Aramites were the original inhabitants of Damascus , and their language was Syriac . Many villages around Damascus are still known by their Aramic names .Damascus full under the domination of the Greeks , the Romans , and the Byzantines . They all left their mark on the city as visitors can still readily observe today . In the Roman era , Damascus was first among the ten most prominent cities . It received many privileges , especially during the reign of the Syrian dynasty of Roman emperors . It was from Damascus that the most talented architect of the Roman Empire came . This was Apolodor the Damascene , who designed the celebrated Trajan Column in Rome , and the great bridge on the river Danube . Part of the heritage of this era are the remains of the city-plan which Apolodor designed in oblong shape according with Roman architectural style . There is also part of the Roman temple of Jupiter , which was erected on the site of an older Aramic temple ( Hadad ) where the Omayyad Mosque stands today . this part of the temple is distinguished by its huge Corinthian columns with their richly decorated capitals . In the Byzantine era , a great number of churches and monasteries were built , and most of them have survived to the present . Damascus became the capital of the first Arabe state at the time of the Omayyad in 661 A .D . this marked the beginning of its golden epoch , and for a whole century it was the center of the youthful Islamic Empire . This reached its peak of expansion during this period , and came to stretch from the shores of the Atlantic and the Pyrennese in the West , to the river Indus and China in the east . The Omayyad took a genuine interest in building up the city , organizing its souqs and districts , improving its water supply and erecting palaces and hospitals in various parts of it . Following the decline and fall of the Omayyad , Damascus went through a period of neglect and deterioration . It suffered disaster and destruction , seeing only temporay prosperity , depending on whose domination it was subjected to . However , when Independence was achieved in 1946 , the city started to regain its importance as a significant cultural and political center in the Arab world . When president Hafez al-Assad became leader of the country in 1970 , an immense process of modernization started in the fields of construction and development . As has Syria , Damascus has now recovered its status at the heart of Arab and international affairs . Visiting Damascus www.tartoos.com It is impossible to enumerate all the place of interest in Damascus . The city is a living museum spanning thousands of years . one can only review the most important landmarks in the old part ( within city-walls ) and the new part ( outside city –walls ) of the city . Landmarks of Old Damascus 1. The Wall and Gates : The wall was built in the Roman era with large , tapered stones . It was oblong is shape , designed in the manner of Roman military camps , cities , and fortifications . There are seven gates in it : Bab Sharqi , Bab al-Jabieh , Bab al-saghir , Bab keissan , Bab tuma , Bab al-jeniq , and Bab al-faradiss . The main thoroughfare traversed the city from Bab al-Jabieh to Bab Sharqi ; on both sides there were Corinthian columns , and across it numerous triumphal arches . But this thoroughfare has been submerged over the years to about six metres underground , and has been superseded by Souq al– tawil or Midhat Basha, under which are occasionally discovered some Roman columns , especially when road works are in progress . One such discovery was made in 1950 when a triumphal arch was found at Bab Sharqi , brought up to street level , and re-erected after its restoration was completed . At time of the Islamic conquest in 635 A.D . the wall was still solid and impregnable , so the tow Muslim leaders Khaled ibn al-walid and abu Obeida ibn al-Jarrah entered the city through Bab Sharqi and Bab al-Jabieh respectively. Thus the Wall was preserved , and remained intact throughout the Omayyad era . But when the Abassids stormed Damascus in 750 A.D . they destroyed large parts of it . It began to deteriorate over the years so much , so that it became oval in shape . But it was partly restored and reinforced at the time of the Nourites and Ayoubites , in order to withstand the attacks of the Crusaders . During Ottoman rule , however , it was neglected altogether , and some masonary was removed for use in other building ; later on , numerous houses were built upon the greater expanse of it .www.tartoos.com The only part of historic significance still standing in its original form is 500-meters long , and stretches from Bab al-salaam to Bab Tuma . Most of thr gates are still there , although much altered by additions and engravings done over the years . Other gates were made during the Islamic era , such as Bab al-Salaam and Bab al-Faraj which were built by Nureddin . Bab Keissan and Bab al-Jeniq were blocked up ; and Bab al-Nasr , which had stood next al-Qal;a ( the castle ) was removed when souq al-Hamidiyeh was built in 1863 . The remaining towers on the Wall are : The Nureddin Tower to the south ao Bab Tuma , and al-saleh Ayoub Tower to the east . 2. The Omayyad Mosque This great Mosque stands at the heart of the Old City at the end of Souq al-Hamidiyeh . It was built by the Omayyad Caliph al-Walid ibn Abdul Malek in 705 A.D . when Damascus was the capital of the Arab Islamic Empire . It was constructed on the site of what has always been a place of workship : first , a temple for Hadad , the Aramena god of the ancient Syrians three thousand years ago ; a pagan temple ( the temple of Jupiter the Damascene ) during the Roman era . It was later turned into a church called John the Bapist when Christianity spread in the fourth century . Following the Islamic conquest in 635 , Muslims and Christians agreed to perform their rituals side by side . When al-walid decided to erect an impressive mosque suited to the grandeur of the Arab state whose like was never built before , nor will ever be built after’as he is reported to have said , he negotiated with the Christian community of Damascus , and undertook to construct a new church for them ( St. John’s ) and allot several pieces of land of other churches , if they relinquished their right to their part of the mosque . they agreed . It took ten years and eleven million gold dinars , as well as a huge number-layers , and painters to complete . It became an architectural model for hundreds of mosque throughout the Islamic world . A prominent feature of it are the three minarets built in different styles ; the upper parts of which were renovated during the Ayoubite , Mamluk , and Ottoman eras . The mosque has a large prayer hall and an enormous courtyard . The interior Walls are covered with with mosaic panels , made of coloured and gilded glass , portraying scenes from nature . The dome is grayish-blue , celebrated for its magnificence . The prayer hall contains a domed shrine venerated by both Christian and Muslims , the tomb of St. John the Bapist .www.tartoos.com 3. The Azem Palace This also stands at the heart of the Old City , on the southern side of the Omayyad Mosque , and very close to it . It is an astonishing example of a Damascus house , where the simple , almost primitive , exterior contrasts rather sharply with the beauty and sophistication of the interior . Here one finds a sense of space , a wealth of polychrome stone , splendid marble , cascading fountains , and fragrant flowers . The place was built in the mid-eighteenth century for the Governor of Damascus . The place now houses the Museum of Arts and popular Traditions . 4. The Damascus Citadel The only fortress in Syria built on the same level as the city . , it does not top a hill or a mountain like all other castles and citadels . It was erected by the Seljuks in 1078 A.D > with masonry taken from the city wall , and turned into a heavily-fortified citadel surrounded by walls , towers , a moat and trenches . Inside , they built houses , bath , mosque , and schools ; it was a city within a city . At the height of Crusader raids and attacks , it was used as residence for the sultans of Egypt and Syria such as Nureddin , Saladin , and al-Malek al-Adel , whence they supervised military operations against the Crusaders . But al-Malek al-Adel soon found that it was no longer adequate for defence against contemporary weapons and siege tactic , so he decided in 1202 to demolish and re-build it . The outcome was an impressive modern citadel , incorporating the latest inventions in the martial arts . It had imposing walls and a dozen colossal turrets surrounding it ; there were three-hundred arrow silts and enormous parapets all round . In the mid-thirteenth century , however , it was the principal target for Tatar and Mangol attacks , and was later neglected by the Ottomans . The moast and trenches around it were filled up , and the souqs of Hamidiyeh , Asrounieh , and al-Khuja were built thereon . Recently walls of the fortress came into full view . Extensive repair and restoration work is underway at the moment ; when completed the citadel will become a war museum , and a center for various cultural activities .www.tartoos.com 5. The Souqs The old covered souqs of Damascus have a unique flavour you can savour with eyes closed . As you walk about in the warm darkness of these streets with their fragrant scents , spices , and colourful merchandise spilling out of the shops onto the pavements , you enter the strange world of exotic legends . Most prominent of these souqs are : Souq al-Hamidiyeh Follows a straight line from the west ( where Bab al-nasr used to be ) to the Omayyad Mosque . It dates back to 1863 , to the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid , after whom the souq was called . It is coverd with high iron the darkness of the souq . The shops here sell everything from tissues to leather-work , from sweets and ice-cream to exquisite handmade brocades , mosaic , and copper inlaid with silver Souq Midhat Pasha ( The long souq ) : founded by the governor of Damascus Midhat Pasha in 1878 . It stands above the roman ‘ street called Straight ‘ which used to traverse the city from Bab al-Jabieh to Bab Sharqi , and runs parallel to souq al-Hamidiyeh , with numerous side-souqs separating them . On both sides of the souq the shops are filled with local textiles , silk cloth , woolen cloaks , headbands and skull caps ; there are also ancient khans ( inns ) whose entrances and archways house an endless number of other smaller shops . one half of this Souq ( the part closer to Bab Sharqi ) is uncovered , and is well-know for its coppersmiths , engraved copper products , and silver inlaid utensils. Some archeologists say this is the location where Damascus first came into being thousands of years ago . In one of the side streets in this part , Maktab;Anbar is situated . This is the most exquisite of Damascus houses built in the nineteenth century . In 1887 it was turned into a secondary school , and continued functioning throughout the Ottoman and French periods . It was repaired and and restored recently to become a cultural center . It contains some of the most striking tinted glass windows , spacious patios , ornamented halls and painted ceilings . At the end of this souq , just befor Bab Sharqi , there are several beautiful churchres , such as the Hananiya Church , which dates back to the Byzantine era , and the N’assan House , which represents a typical old Damascus house . Souq al-Harir Founded by Darwish Pasha in 1574 . Its entrance is at the end of souq al-Hamidiyyeh just outside the Omayyad Mosque . Its shops are filled with local embroidered cloths , perfume essence , and tailoring and sewing requisites . Here , too , a number of old khans have been converted into shops , best known for their cloaks , capes , mantles , shawls , and ‘ galabiyas ‘ Most interesting of these clusters of little shops is an old bath called al-Qishani .www.tartoos.com Souq al-Harir leads to yet another souq called al-Khayatin ( tailors ) which was Shamsi Pasha in 1553 ; a multitude of shops here sell woolens and material for men’s clothing . Hundreds of celebrated tailors of traditional wear used to work here in the past . Between these tow souqs stands the mosque and tomb of the Muslim leader Nureddin ibn Zenki . The mosque was erected in 1173 , and is distinguished by a dome of unequalled beauty , and interior and exterior designs of unique originality . Also between the tow souqs stands Madrassat ( school ) Abdallah al-Azem , constructed in 1779 , during the Ottoman period , which has been converted into a cluster of small shops for traditional crafts Souq al Bzourieh Extends between souq Midhat Pasha and the Omayyad Mosque and is famous for its quaint little fruit , medicinal herbs , and confectionery . In the middle of this souq stands a bath ( one of the tow hundred public baths ) which has been in continuous use from the twelfth century . Here , too is the celebrated khan of As’ad Pash built by the owner of al-Azem Palace in the mid-nineteenth century ; it is now being converted into a hotel . Another little souq branches out of al-Bzourieh ; this is the Goldsmiths’Market , where an endless vatiety of hand-made jewellery is sold ; the southern entranace to the Omayyad Mosque overlooks this glittering little souq . Bimaristan al-Noury To the south of souq al-Hamidiyeh , this was built by Nureddin in the twelfth century as a hospital , and financed by ransom money to the amount of 300,000 dinars paid by a Crusader king held captive . During the Ottoman period it was converted into a school for girls , and it now houses the Museum of Arab Medicine and Science . It contains the most exquisite examples of decorative inscriptions used for the first time during Nureddin’s reign to replace the traditional kufi inscriptions .www.tartoos.com Saladin’s Tomb and its Neighbouring Schools : The tomb is next door to the north gate of the Omayyad Mosque . It was originally part of al-Azizieh School built by Uthman , saladin’s son , in the twelfth century . The whole interior is decorated with polychrome marble mosaics . Next to the tomb stands a typical Mamluk edifice , the Jumaqjieh School , built in the twelfth century . The interior is decorated with inscriptions and beautiful lettering . It is one of the most splendid old school is Damascus ; and has recently been turned into a museum of Arabic Calligraphy . Tow other schools nearby : al-Zhahiriya , which is Ayoubite edifice and houses the famous library of that name ; and al-Adliya , which is also Ayoubite in style , and is now headquarters of the Arab Language Academy . St. Paul’s Church Is situated behind Bab Keissan , one of the gates in the old wall encircling Damascus . It commemorates the memory of St. Paul , whose name was Saul of Tarsus , charged by the Romans to persecute the Christian . As he approached the village of Daray , a burst of blinding light took his sight away , and he heard Jesus Christ ash him ‘ Saul , why do you persecute me ? ‘’ This was a vision of faith . He was taken unconscious to Damascus , attended by Hananiya , Christ’s disciple , and became one of the staunchest advocates of Christianity . His Jewish peers decided to kill him , but he hid in a house by the city wall , and at night was lowered by his disciples in a huge basket from a slit in he wall . He travelled to Antioch , Athen , and Rom , after a brief stay in Jerusalem , and continued to teach the gospel until died . Landmarks of the New City Ever since the eleventh century , when the old city was already too small for its inhabitants and their houses , the city started to expand beyond its walls . In the Nuri and Ayoubite periods new suburbs emerged ; theu were separate and independent of the city proper , but they , in turn , continued to grow at such a rate during the Mamluk period that they joined the wall , and the old city became indistinguishable from the new . Most notable among the suburbs was al-Salhieh at the foot of Jabal Qassiun , al-Uqiba , al-Midan , and al-Mazzeh . Mamluk princes and sultans also erected numerous school and mosque beyond the old city walls . During the Ottoman period four new edifices were constructed , namely : Sheikh Muhieddin , al-Takieh al-Suleimaniyeh , al-Darwishieh , and al-Sinanieh . In the nineteenth century , new roads were built across the city along with new residential eras . European architectural styles started to appear . Most important among the buildings of this period are : al-Hamidiyeh Barracks , al-Saraya ( now housing the ministry of the interior ) , al-Muhajirin palace ( the presidential Palace ) , the national hospital , and the law school ( now being renovated to accommodate the Ministry of tourism ) . Construction of new roads , bridges , hospitals , public parks , hotels , government offices , and new residential suburbs began after Independence and is still going strong today . Places of interest to the visitor are : 1– The National Museum : the national museum of Damascus is generally recognized as one of the finest of its kind in the world . Visitors can see artifacts of the great civilization that emerged and flourished in Syria . There are thousands of statues , stamps , pieces of jewellery , weapons , precious stones ; sculpture , masks , tablets , textiles , mosaics , glass-work and earthenware , coins , and manuscripts from the ancient Syrian kingdoms of Ebla , Ugarit , Palmyra , Tel Sukas , Mari , Doura , Europos , Bosra , Shahba and others . the main Oriental Antiquities : ( the ugarit alphabet , gold, silver , and ivory statues , stamps , antiquities of the coastal and interior regions , the civilization of Mary . The statue of Ornina , ivory picture panels , jewellery , gold masks , and various weapons ) .www.tartoos.com Classical , Greek and Roman Antiquities : ( the Palmyra civilization , Doura Europos , mosaics , the Byzantine period, and basalt sculpture ) . The Arab –Islamic Section : ( the façade of Qasr al-Hir al-Gharbi , glass-work , ceramics , weapons , astrolabes , earthenware , coins , and manuscripts ) . Modern Arts Section : ( Work of contemporary Syria artists since the 30’s , painting and sculpture ) . 2- Al-Takieh al-Suleimaniyeh : A remarkable example of Ottoman architecture ; it was built by order of Sultan Sulriman al-Qanouni ( hence the name ) in 1554 . It was erected on the site of the famous palace of Zhaher Bybars , and designed by the celebrated architect Sinan . Most striking are its tow elegant minarets . It is divided into tow parts : the great Takieh which consists of a mosque and a school , and the minor takieh with a prayer hall and a large patio surrounded by archways , arcades and rooms , now housing the handicraft market . 3- The City of Damascus Historical Museum : An eighteenth-century building , which , like al-Azem Palace , is considered a fine example of old Damascene houses . It contains historical documents relating to the inhabitants of the city of Damascus 4– Al-Salhieh : situated at the foot of Mount Qassiun which overlooks Damascus . Building in this area started in the eleventh century to accommodate refugees arriving from Jerusalem following the Crusader occupation of the city . Here you find numerous old schools and hospitals , as well as mosque and the shrines of prominent Muslim thinkers and Sufi leaders such as Muhieddin Ibn Arabi and Abd al-Ghni al-Nabulsi . In the Muhieddin district , a colossal wooden noria was erected in the thirteenth century , based on a design made by al-Jazri , the leading mechanic of this time . It lifted water from the river Yazid to a height of 12 meters to supply al-Qaimarieh Hospital at al-Salhieh . It is the only one remaining of a great many norias that were scattered all over the district . There is an alley called the Noria Alley . Damascus COUNTRY AND ENVIRONS Places of interest of the visitors : Ma’ lula This famous village is some 56 kilometres from Damascus , and is situated at an altitude of more than 1500 meters . Its little houses cling to the face of an enormous rock ; they look suspended in mid-air . There are tow monasteries here : Saint Sergius and Saint Taqla’s . The inhabitants still speak Aramic , the language spoken by Christ . Tow neighbouring villages , Jaba;din and Naj;a also speak the same language . The word Ma’lula means ‘ entrance ‘ in Aramic. Seydnaya Some 30 kilometrs from Damascus , the village is spread out over a hilltop , and is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves . It has famous monastery founded in 547 , dedicated to the Blessed Virgin . The name of the village itself , ‘’ Seyda Naya ‘’ in Syriac means ‘’ Our lady ‘’. The monastery contains a portrait of the virgin believed to have been painted by St. Luke . Shrine of Saida Zeinab Located some 10 kilometres to the south of Damascus . The interior is covered with decorations in silver and gold , ornate window and lavish chandeliers . The shrine attracts hundreds of pilgrims daily from various countries , who come to pay tribute to the Prophet’s grand-daughter , the daughter of the Imam Ali ibn Taleb . Summer Resorts and Recreation Spots : Zabadani A summer resort some 45 kilometres north Damascus , 1175 metres above sea-level . It overlooks the plain of Zabadani , a fertile land with thousands of fruit trees bearing delicious apples , cherries , plums , peaches , and pears . The source of the river Barada is in this plain and it supplies Damascus with water , and irrigates the Ghuta around the city . The source of the river forms a little lake which is surrounded by cafes , restaurants , and play-grounds . Attracted by its fresh air and beautiful scenery Damascenes rush to this resort on hot summer days . The area has many hotels and restaurants , cafes and camping sites situated near the banks of the river . Many Damascus , however , prefer another nearby resort , Bludan , which spreads over the mountain overlooking Zabadani , at 1500 metres above sea-level . It is cooler here and the scenery is particularly impressive , especially at sunset . Here , too, plenty of hotels , restaurants and cafes cater to the needs of all visitors . Most notable among them is the Grand Hotel , with its spacious terrace that overlooks the entire Zabadani plain . Also on the hill-top between Zabadani and Bludan , lies the village of Buqein with its famous mineral-spring gushing out of the hillside . It is customary for visitprs to stop here and sample this fresh water . This is now bottled and sold in hotels , restaurants and shops throughout the Middle East .www.tartoos.com Recreation spots near Damascus are numerous and varied . In the Western Ghuta on the banks of the river Barada , you will find hundreds of them concealed under the shade of poplar and willow trees . The main resting-spots in this vally are : Ein al-Fijeh , Ein al-Khadra , Basseemeh , al-Ashrafieh , al-Hameh , and al-Rabweh . The eastern Ghuta , where the International Airport is located , is also a most attractive part of the Damamscus environs . It is full of fruit orchards with apricot , peach , apple , and pear trees . Also a little to the north of Damascus there are tow interesting villages , al-Tel Mnein ( 1300 meters above sea level ) , well-known their clear spring and pretty cafes . The village of Erneh is some 52 kilometres from Damascus , suspended at 1400 meters above sea-level on the slopes of Mount Hermon . It has over 300 springs that converge to create al-A’waj River , and it is well-known for its delicious strawberries , cherries , apples and peaches . Situated in the vast Hawran plain . some 145 kilometres south of Damascus . It is an extremely ancient city mentioned in the lists of Tutmose III and Akhenaten in the fourteenth century B.C . The first Nabatean city in the second century B.C , It bore the name Buhora , but during the Hellenistic period . it was known by the name of Bustra . Later the Romans took an active interest in the city , and at the time of the Emperor Trajan it was made the province of Arabia ( in 106 B.C ) and was called Neatrajana Bustra . the city saw its greatest period of prosperity and expansion then , became a crossroads on the caravan routes and the official seat and residence of the Imperial Legate . After the decline of the Roman Empire , Bosra played a significant role in the history of early Christianity . It was also linked to the rise of Islam , when a Nestorian monk called Bahira , who lived in the city , met the young Muhammad when his caravan stopped at bosra , and predicated his prophetic his prophetic vocation and the faith he was going to initiate . The oldest Islamic square minarets ( still standing ) are found in Bosra , whose prosperous role as an important halt for pilgrims on the way to Mecca lasted until the 17 th century .www.tartoos.com The most interesting part of the city today is the famous Roman theatre built in the second century A.D . which seats 15 thousand spectators , and is considered one of the most beautiful and well-preserved of Roman amphitheatres in the world . The stage is 45 meters long and 8 meters deep . Every summer , it hosts Arab and international performers who entertain audiences during the Bosra Art Festival against a majestic background of Roman columns and arches . The city itself contains a great number of Roman ruins , a part of the Byzantine Bahira Church , as well as the al-Mabrak Mosque , which is said to have been erected on the site where the Prophet’s camel stopped to rest . There is also the Omar Mosque ( also called the al-Arouss Mosque ) , which is the only one of its type remaining from the early days of Islam , and it retains its th century primitive form . An important Muslim citadel , dating back to the Ayoubite and Mamluk period still stands , and one of its towers now houses a museum of Antiquities and Traditional Arts . – In addition , the city also has : Remains of walls ( Nabatean ) ;– Bath ( Roman , 2nd century ) ;– – al-Birkeh ( a hug pool : 155 by 122 meters) – ( Nabateau ) ; – A Nabatean temple dating back to the first century ; – A Cathedral ( Byzantine , 4 th century ) ; Shahba ( Sweida province ) In the Jabal al-Arab region 90 kilometers south-east of Damascus . Shahba stands in an oasis of orchards and vineyards . Renowned as the birthplace of the Syria Emperor Phillip who ruled the Roman Empire between 244 and 249 A.D to honour him , the city bore the name Phillipopolis during the Roman period . He took a personal interest in the city , planned it after the Roman style , built numerous palaces and temples in it , erected triumphal arches and public baths , a theatre and a great wall surrounding it . He is said to have wanted to turn Shahba into a replica of Roman itself .www.tartoos.com Visitors to the Shahba museum can see the immense mosaic panels representing ancient Greek myths ; the god of wine and fertility Dionysus , the goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite , and the legendary poet and musician Orpheus . Another collection of Shahba’s mosaic panels is in the National Museum in Damascus . Remains of the city temple ( Philipon ) , some public baths , parts of the old wall and its four gates , as well as the tow intersecting thoroughfares and the Roman canal can still be seen in the town . Salkhad ( Sweida Province ) Some 38 kilometers south of Sweida and 20 km east of Bosra . Here you find : Remains of a citadel built by the Nabateans on a volcanic hill ; it was renovated by the Ayoubites and Mamluks who added watch-towers to the original building . – The minaret of an Ayoubite mosque in the town square . – An Ayoubite tomb with stones inscribed with Arabic lettering .www.tartoos.com Tel Shehba ( Dora’a province ) Famous for its water-falls which flow into wadi Khalid , and the remains of its ancient wall . Qanawat ( Sweiad Province ) 7 kilometers east of Sweida , it was a city of great importance during the Roman period . In the year 60 B.C , the Roman named it one of the Decapolis League of commercial cities of which Damascus was chief city . This position of importance explains the abundance and richness of its ruins which are among the most interesting in the whole Jabal al-Arab region . The location of Qanawat lends beauty to its remains ; the village lies stretched and along the crest of a hill and extends down the side of a valley full of trees , orchards , meadows and fields . Of greatest interest to the visitor is a cluster of columns which were part of 2nd century temple dedicated to the sun god Helios . Another temple of the same period dedicated to Zeus was built with decorated basalt . Of this temple there are only six columns left . On this right side of the valley there are the remains of an Odeon . Sweida ( principal Town in the province ) Situated some 90 kilometers south-east of Damascus , it is well-known for its plentiful vineyards . It stands 1100 meters above sea-level , and was known by the name of Suwada ( little black town ) in the Nabatean period , because it was built with black volcanic stone . The Romans , in the 3rd century , considered it one of the most important towns in the province of Arabia and called it Dionysus .www.tartoos.com Ruins of ancient civilizations are numerous but widely scattered ; some of the most notable of these , along with a collection of exquisite mosaics discovered in 1962 , are now housed in the Sweida Museum . One part of this mosaic collection represents Artemis , goddess of chastity and the hunt , surrounded by her nymphs when she is surprised by a hunter while bathing . This fine Roman work dates back to the sixth century . Another scene portrays the birth of Venus and the wedding of Thetis . Statues carved in hard basalt show sings of a mixture of Nabatean , Greek , Roman , Byzantine , and Arab influences . There are also the ruins of a 3 rd century Roman temple surrounded by a Corinthian columns