[[Damascus University]] • [[Damascus Opera House]]
[[Four Seasons Hotel Damascus, Four Seasons Hotel]] and [[Barada, Barada River]] • [[National Museum of Damascus, National Museum]] • [[Umayyad Mosque]]
[[Azm Palace]] • [[Maktab Anbar]]Damascus ), commonly known in Syria as Al Sham ), and as the City of Jasmine ), is the capital and the second largest city of Syria and one of the country's 14 governorates. The Damascus Governorate is ruled by a governor appointed by the Minister of Interior. In addition to being the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Damascus is a major cultural and religious center of the Levant. The city has an estimated population of 1,711,000 (2009 est.).Located in southwestern Syria, Damascus is the center of a large metropolitan area of 2.4 million people (2004). Geographically embedded on the eastern foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range 80 km inland from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean on a plateau 680 m 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.