Damascus is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo. Commonly known in Syria as ash Sham and nicknamed as the City of Jasmine. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major cultural and religious center of the Levant. The city has an estimated population of 1,711,000 . Located in southwestern Syria, Damascus is the center of a large metropolitan area of 2.6 million people (2004). Geographically embedded on the eastern foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range 80 kilometres (50 mi) inland from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean on a plateau 680 metres (2,230 ft) above sea-level, Damascus experiences a semi-arid climate due to the rain shadow effect. The Barada River flows through Damascus.
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