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Now the name of Abraham is even still famous in the country of Damascus; and there is shown a village named from him, the Habitation of Abraham." In 1100, the city became the center of a powerful Aramaean state called Aram Damascus.At the time of King David, the Israelites fought against the Aramaeans, and Damascus was reportedly compelled to recognize David's authority.Poorer areas, often built without official approval, have mostly developed south of the main city.Damascus is surrounded by an oasis, the Ghouta (الغوطة ), watered by the Barada.Al-Merjeh soon became the name of what was initially the central square of modern Damascus, with the city hall located there.The courts of justice, post office and railway station stood on higher ground slightly to the south.
Satellite image of Damascus, with Umaween Square just above the center.
These new districts were initially settled by Kurdish soldiers and Muslim refugees from the European regions of the Ottoman Empire that had fallen under Christian rule.
Thus, they were known as al-Akrad ("the Kurds"); and al-Muhajirin ("the migrants"). From the late-nineteenth century on, a modern administrative and commercial center began to spring up to the west of the old city, around the Barada, centered on the area known as al-merjeh ("the meadow").
The Fijeh spring, west along the Barada valley, provides the city with drinking water.
The Ghouta oasis has been decreasing in size with the rapid expansion of housing and industry in the city.