The Barada flows through the Karst spring of ‘Ayn Fījah (عين فيجة), about 27 km north west of Damascus in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, but its source is Lake Barada, a small lake that is a Karst spring located at about 8 km from Zabadani. The Barada descends through a steep, narrow gorge named "Rabwe" before it arrives at Damascus, where it divides into seven branches that irrigate the oasis of Ghouta (الغوطة). The "Barada" name is thought to derive from barid, which means "cold" in Arabic. The ancient Greek name means "golden stream".
Throughout the arid plateau region east of Damascus, oases, streams, and a few interior rivers that empty into swamps and small lakes provide water for local irrigation. Most important of these is the Barada, a river that rises in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and disappears into the desert. The Barada creates the Al Ghutah Oasis, site of Damascus. This verdant area, some 370 square kilometers, has enabled Damascus to prosper since ancient times. From the mid-1980s onwards, the size of Al Ghutah was gradually being eroded as suburban housing and light industry from Damascus encroached on the oasis.
Barada river near the Citadel of Damascus 2006
The river has suffered from severe drought in the last decades, mainly due to the lower rainfall rates and the large increase in the population in the region. It also suffers from serious pollution problems, especially in the summer, where there is almost no flow and little water in the basin.
Barada is identified as Abana (or Amanah, in Qere and Ketiv variation in tanach and classical Chrysorrhoas) which is the more important of the two rivers of Damascus, Syria and was mentioned in the Book of Kings (2 Kings 5:12). As the Barada rises in the Anti-Libanus, and escapes from the mountains through a narrow gorge, its waters debouch fan-like, in canals or rivers, the name of one of which, the Banias river, retains a trace of Abana.
John MacGregor, who gives a description of them in his book Rob Roy on the Jordan, affirmed that as a work of hydraulic engineering, the system and construction of the canals, by which the Abana and Pharpar were used for irrigation, might be considered as one of the most complete and extensive in the world. In the Bible, Naaman exclaims that the Abana and Pharpar are greater than all the waters of Israel.
- Before Vanishing, a documentary about the decline of Barada.
- Water resources management in Greater Damascus
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abana". Encyclopædia Britannica 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 6.