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Damascus is first documented as an important city during the arrival of the Aramaeans, a Semitic people from Mesopotamia, in the 11th century BC.
Aš-Šām is an Arabic term for "Levant" and for "Syria"; the latter, and particularly the historical region of Syria, is called Bilādu š-Šāmi ( Damascus was built in a strategic site on a plateau 680 m (2,230 ft) above sea level and about 80 km (50 mi) inland from the Mediterranean, sheltered by the Anti-Lebanon mountains, supplied with water by the Barada River, and at a crossroads between trade routes: the north-south route connecting Egypt with Asia Minor, and the east-west cross-desert route connecting Lebanon with the Euphrates river valley.
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.
Nicolaus of Damascus, in the fourth book of his History, says thus: "Abraham reigned at Damascus, being a foreigner, who came with an army out of the land above Babylon, called the land of the Chaldeans: but, after a long time, he got him up, and removed from that country also, with his people, and went into the land then called the land of Canaan, but now the land of Judea, and this when his posterity were become a multitude; as to which posterity of his, we relate their history in another work.
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.The Anti-Lebanon mountains mark the border between Syria and Lebanon. and blocks precipitation from the Mediterranean sea, so that the region of Damascus is sometimes subject to droughts.