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Cradle of Civilizations PDF Print E-mail

You are where history's voice can be heard, where the soil holds the imprints of the world's oldest civilizations, some dating back to the fourth millenium BC.

Agriculture first appeared in Syria thousands of years ago, when man discovered the possibility of growing hundreds of new plants from seed. This discovery made it possible for civilization, as we know it, to begin.

In ancient Syria, the secrets of metallurgy were also discovered, the possibility of hammering bronze and copper into shapes that would serve domestic, military and aesthetic uses. At Mari (Tel Hariri) were found numerous palaces, temples and murals reflecting advanced cultural and commercial activity. The kingdom of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) offered mankind its first alphabet. At Ebla(Tel Merdikh), a royal palace was discovered containing one of the largest and most comprehensive archives of the ancient world, dealing with matters of industry, diplomacy, trade, art and agriculture.

The Akkadians, the Amorites, the Canaanite, the Phoenicians, the Arameans or the Ghassanids, all of these kingdoms settled in Syria and took it as their land .

The strategic importance of Syria is due to its unique position at the meeting point of three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe, and at the crossroads between the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Nile. This geographical position lent distinction to the country, not only as a trade and caravan route but also as a melting-pot of ideas, beliefs and talents.

During the Greek and Roman eras, Syria was a center for culture and politics. Several Roman emperors were natives of Syria. Greater Syria was central to the rise of the world's monotheistic religions. Christianity began its expansion from there. Antioch in the north, was the home of the first Christian community in the first century AD. The oldest churches in the world are in Syria. When Islam spread to Syria, Damascus became the capital of the Islamic Empire under the Umayyad Caliphate.

When you walk in the cities of Syria, you will realize that history is something alive and tangible, something you can see, touch and smell. A journey through a Syrian town is a journey into both the past and the present at the same time. You might happen on a Roman arch, built centuries before Christ, under which you might find a shop selling the latest electronic gadgets. Or you may pass on Ottoman caravanserai, bustling under its evocative Arabesque designs with present-day commercial activity.

Damascus, the world's oldest inhabited city, contains Greek ruins built over Aramean temples, and minarets rising over Crusader remains. The Omayyad mosque, a great edifice of Islamic civilization, became a prototype of Islamic architecture, from Spain to Samarcand.

In Aleppo, a grand fortress rises before you, on the very mount where, in the year 2,000 BC, Abraham is said to have milked his cow, giving the site of the city its name, Halab (in Arabic "to milk"). The long, winding stone bazaar of Alepp

o is one of the most beautiful in the East, replete with locally-famous coloured silk scarves, perfumes, and soaps still made to ancient recipes.

On the northern coast, your imagination can wander back unhindered by the modern ships you see-to those early sailors who set forth from this very shore, taking their coloured glass, their cloth of gold, their carved wood, and their alphabet to the far-flung regions of the known world.

The villages of Syria, whether they nestle in mountain valleys, or cluster along the coast, or border a great desert, are unique in their traditions and in the native costumes of their inhabitants. Maaloula, a village not far from Damascus where the houses are carved out of the mountain stone, still speaks Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 August 2007 )
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