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Introduction

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Syria (Arabic: سورياSūriyā), officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السوريةal-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. Syria's capital and largest city is Damascus. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turks. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunni make up the largest religious group in Syria.

Syria is a unitary republic consisting of 14 governorates and is the only country that politically espouses Ba'athism. It is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement; it has become suspended from the Arab League on November 2011 and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and self-suspended from the Union for the Mediterranean.

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A stone wall intersected by three square towers with the ruins of another building in the foreground

The Citadel of Damascus (Arabic: قلعة دمشق‎: Qala'at Dimashq) is a large medieval fortified palace and citadel in Damascus, Syria. It is part of the Ancient City of Damascus, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The location of the current citadel was first fortified in 1076 by the Turkman warlord Atsiz bin Uvak, although it is possible but not proven that a citadel stood on this place in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. After the assassination of Atsiz bin Uvak, the project was finished by the Seljuq ruler Tutush I. The emirs of the subsequent Burid and Zengid dynasties carried out modifications and added new structures to it. During this period, the citadel and the city were besieged several times by Crusader and Muslim armies. In 1174, the citadel was captured by Saladin, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, who made it his residence and had the defences and residential buildings modified.

Saladin's brother Al-Adil rebuilt the citadel completely between 1203 and 1216 in response to the development of the counterweight trebuchet. After his death, power struggles broke out between the other Ayyubid princes and although Damascus switched hands several times, the citadel was taken by force only once, in 1239. The citadel remained in Ayyubid hands until the Mongols under their general Kitbuqa captured Damascus in 1260, thereby ending Ayyubid rule in Syria. After an unsuccessful revolt broke out in the citadel, the Mongols had most of it dismantled. After the defeat of the Mongols in 1260 by the Mamluks, who had succeeded the Ayyubids as rulers of Egypt, Damascus came under Mamluk rule. Except for brief periods in 1300 and 1401, when the Mongols conquered Damascus, the Mamluks controlled the citadel until 1516. In that year, Syria fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Damascus surrendered without a fight and from the 17th century onward the citadel functioned as barracks for the Jannisaries—Ottoman infantry units. The citadel started to fall into disrepair in the 19th century and its last military use was in 1925, when French soldiers shelled the old city from the citadel in response to the Great Syrian Revolt against the French Mandate of Syria. The citadel continued to serve as a barracks and prison until 1986, when excavations and restorations started. As of 2011, excavation and restoration efforts are still ongoing.

The citadel is located in the northwest corner of the city walls, between the Bab al-Faradis and the Bab al-Jabiyah. The citadel consists of a more or less rectangular curtain wall enclosing an area of 230 by 150 metres (750 by 490 ft). The walls were originally protected by 14 massive towers, but today only 12 remain. The citadel has gates on its northern, western and eastern flanks. The current citadel dates primarily to the Ayyubid period while incorporating parts of the older Seljuq fortress. Extensive repairs in response to sieges and earthquakes were carried out in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods.

Did you know...

The Louvre lion and accompanying stone tablet

  • ... that the inscription on the stone tablet accompanying the Urkish lions (pictured) is the earliest known text written in the Hurrian language?

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The fortified entrance

The Citadel of Aleppo is an immense fortification in the centre of the old city of 'Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. A great deal of conservation work has taken place over the last seven years by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities.

The inner gate

The recently discovered Temple of the Ancient Storm God, Hadda, dates use of the hill to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, and it is referred to in Cuniform texts from Ebla and Mari refer to the temple. The prophet Abraham is said to have milked his sheep on the citadel hill. After the decline of the Neo-Hittite state centred in Aleppo, the Assyrians dominated the area (4-8th century BC), followed by the Neo-Babylonians and the Persians (539-333).

see also : Crac des Chevaliers

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Shukri al-Quwatli (1891, Damascus, Syria — June 30, 1967, Beirut, Lebanon) (Arabic: شكري القوتلي) was the president of Syria from 1943-1949 and 1955-1958. Quwatli entered Syrian politics in the 1930s as a member of the National Bloc, a coalition of Arab parties that led the opposition to French rule. As a young man, he had been involved in al-Fatat, an underground opposition group in Ottoman Syria, and been arrested for his activities in 1916. In jail, because of harsh torture, he feared that he would tell the names of his comrades in al-Fatat. To avoid this he slit open his wrist in a suicide attempt but was saved at the last minute by his friend and colleague Dr Ahmad Qadri. He was released when World War I ended to become a civil servant in post-Ottoman era of King Faisal I. After Atassi resigned the presidency in 1939 over objections to continued French intervention in Syria, several years of (WWII-related) instability and direct French and British military ruled followed. The National Bloc remained the dominant expression of Syrian nationalism, and, when elections were again held in 1943, the bloc helped elect Quwatli president. His major preoccupation was to conclude a treaty with France, which had exercised control over Syria for more than two decades. This was accomplished with British help, and by 1946 all foreign troops had evacuated. In 1947 Quwatli enacted an amendment that removed a one-term limit from the constitution, and he was reelected in 1948.


see also : Nizar Qabbani, Hafez al-Assad

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Quotes

Philip Hitti : "the scholars consider Syria as the teacher for the human characteristics,"

Andrea Parrout : "each civilized person in the world should admit that he has two home countries: the one he was born in, and Syria."

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Baal Temple in Palmyra


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