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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers


Photo provided by Michael Novins

Damascus is often referred to as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.

Damascus has a wealth of historical sites dating back to many different periods of the city's history. Since the city has been built up with every passing occupation, it has become almost impossible to excavate all the ruins of Damascus that lie up to 8 feet below the modern level. The Citadel of Damascus is located in the northwest corner of the Old City. The street called straight (referred to in the conversion of St. Paul in Acts 9:11), also known as the Via Recta, was one of the main streets of Roman Damascus, and extended for over 1500 meters. Today, it consists of the street of Bab Sharqi and the Souk Medhat Pasha, a covered market. The Bab Sharqi street is filled with small shops and leads to the old Christian quarter of Bab Touma (St. Thomas's Gate). Souq Medhat Pasha is also a main market in Damascus and was named after Medhat Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Damascus who renovated the Souq. At the end of the Bab Sharqi street, one reaches the House of Ananias, an underground chapel that was the cellar of Ananias's house.

The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque of Damascus, is one of the largest mosques in the world, and one of the oldest sites of continuous prayer since the rise of Islam. A shrine in the mosque is said to contain the head of John the Baptist.

Map of Damascus


  • Cultural

Community Reviews

Allan, Syria 05-Apr-14

Just been to the Old City today, looking for genuine Damaschin things to buy for my daughters. Wandered around parts of the Old City without a map, knowing the sun was in South. I was the only foreigner around for obvious reasons, which was kind of nice since everybody said "hello", offered me tea or fresh orange juice (yummie!) and wanted me to see their shop or just have a chat. Towards Bab Sharq, I found a shop with furniture etc. of wood with inlaid Mother of Pearl - really nice things. According to the shop owner, it is hand made, he showed me his workshop, and I will go back and buy some of his things since finishing and design was really nice - and hand made, nor produced by a machine. Furthermore, I saw numerous cafés and restaurants in my way; I cannot wait to try them out, escaping the awfull hotel food! Got to get to know the full story of Dimasq!

Bojana Bartol Slovenia 19-Feb-14

There is no city in the Middle East that can offer such a beautiful and authentic old town as Damascus. Do not try to follow the map but dare to let yourself drift through the small, narrow and winding streets of the old town and immerse yourself in the bustling life of the Souq and the Muslim, Christian and Jewish Quarter. Entertain yourself with the stores owners who drink tea and chat with locals. The Old City of Damascus is an oriental dream and the people living there are known from a hospitality and likability.

Layla Alash, US 29-Dec-08

I am half syrian, every time i visit family i love seeing the old part of the city and my favorite part is visiting al-humadiya, it's amazing, every one should see the wall!!!

Douglas Scully, USA 08-Apr-06

Doug (USA)

I went to Syria in 1997. Syria was a wonderful country to visit. Damascus was the first stop. The Damascus museum has great things to see but isn't up to modern standards. The facade of the entrance is fabulous. The main mosque must be seen for the courtyard and its mosaic facade. The interior is bland and rebuilt after a fire 100 years ago. I walked around the souk and the modern suburbs for hours. Don't miss a visit to the nearby hills to see an overview of the city and see how it is an oasis. Besides being a fascinating place, the people I met were so friendly.

Willy Kaemena, Germany 07-Apr-06

Damascus, Ancient City friendly people, good food, and safe place.

Have a look on my Damascus Site ( still growing every day) it shows the Ancient Damascus in Quicktime Virtual Reality (QTVR) the next best thing as to be there yourself.

Look around 360 degrees and 90/90 degrees up and down. Quicktime player/plugin is required.


Dania Karkoutli, SYRIA 15-Mar-06

I born in Damascus 1995

I am a student at Omar Abdul Aziz School in Damascus

I went with my freinds to Omayad Mosque wich is very very big and we saw the tomp of the profit Yahya "St. Jhon the Pabtist" , then I went with my Family to visit Azem Palace , it is now a museum for traditions .

we had lunch at a very beutiful restaurant, it was a house and converted to a restaurant , we fill our stomaks with a very delicias food.

my father working in the tourism field and he always telling me about the visitors from europe how they are astonished when they enter the Markets and old street.He told me that there is a church in Damascus still underground, many people visited. I wish to visit it one day, I feel very proud that I live in Damascus.

john wreford, Syria

I am a London born freelance photographer and have been living in the wonderful city of Damascus for almost two years now.

Without doubt Damascus has a wealth of history, be it Christian, Muslim or a host of other faiths and beleifs but for me the real charm of this once great city is the hospitalty of its people.

What Damascus lacks in other areas is more than made up with its friendliness.

Visit mty web site for a taste of Damascus at

Ibrahim Karkoutli, SYRIA

Damascus is the 2nd home for every one.

freindly people , charming place , holly spot.

You should go there once a life (at least)

Share your experiences!

Have you been to Damascus? Add your own review!

Community Rating

Community Rating 3.50. Based on 1 votes.

Site Info

Full name: Ancient City of Damascus

Unesco ID: 20

Inscribed: 1979 In Danger

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 1   2   3   4   6  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2013 - In Danger Together with all 5 other Syrian WHS, due to Civil War
  • 1979 - Inscribed 
  • 1978 - Deferred 


The site has 1 locations.

  • Damascus


The site has 57 connections.




Human Activity

Individual People

Religion and Belief

  • Islamic pilgrimage sites: Umayyad Mosque, after Mecca and Medina possibly the world's third most important mosque
  • Jewish religion and culture: Several synagogues, among those the French Synagogue
  • Mosque: Umayyad Mosque - 706/715 - Sunni; Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque - ?? - Shia
  • Mosques converted from churches / cathedrals / synagogues: In 705 the "Church of St John" was rebuilt as a mosque (immediately after the Muslim conquest in 636 it was shared between Christians and Muslims). Now known as "Umayyad Mosque".
  • Relics from John the Baptist: Umayyad Mosque - A shrine is said to contain the "head"
  • Mentioned in the Bible: Gen 14:15, 15:2 - Abraham; 2 Sam 8:5, 1 Chr 18:5 1 Kings 11:23 - David; 2 Kings 15:37/16:7-9, Isa 7:8/17:1, Amos 1:4 Jer 49:24 - Damascus taken by Assyrians; Acts 1:9-25, Gal 1;17 - Paul conversion and revisit
  • Early Christianity: "House of Ananias" 1st century AD. Believed to be the house where Ananias baptised Saul and later became a Christian church. It "is the only early Christian house of worship from the first century to survive" in Damascus (Wiki).
  • Syriac Churches: Saint George's Syriac Orthodox Church
  • Greek Orthodox churches outside Greece: Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus
  • Cathedrals: Virgin Mary's Cathedral: It was built in the 2nd century A.C. It is considered the oldest church in Damascus
  • Eastern Catholic Churches: Armenian Catholic + Chapel of Saint Paul at the Bab Kisan is Melkite
  • Shia Islam: Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque - contains the grave of Sukayna (née Ruqayyah), the infant daughter of Husayn ibn 'Ali. An Iranian style Mosque was built (around the historic Mauloseum (which is immediately West of the Omayyad Mosque) in 1985.
  • St Paul was here: Underground remains at the end of the "Street called Straight" are believed to be The House of Ananias of Damascus where he baptised St Paul.



WHS on Other Lists

  • World Monuments Watch (past): Damascus Old City and Saddle Souk (2002), Old Damascus (2008)
  • U.S. Ambassadors Fund : Restoration of the Ancient Chapel of St. Hanania in the Old City of Damascus (2008), Restoration of the 6th-Century Church of St. George (2005), Documentation of Syrian Cultural Heritage (2004), Documentation of Syrian Artifacts (2001)
  • Aga Khan Award for Architecture: Azem Palace (1983)

World Heritage Process