Topography and source
Throughout the arid plateau region east of Damascus, oases, streams, and a few minor 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 flows out of the Karst spring of ‘Ayn Fījah (عين فيجة), about 27 kilometres (17 mi) north west of Damascus in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, but its true source is Lake Barada, a small lake that is also a Karst spring located about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) 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 Al Ghutah Oasis(الغوطة), site of Damascus. This verdant area, some 370 square kilometres (140 sq mi) in size, 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 has encroached on the oasis. The river has also 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 thought to derive from the word barid, which means "cold" in Arabic. The ancient Greek name means "golden stream".
Barada river near the Citadel of Damascus 2006
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.
- 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.
- Before Vanishing, a 2005 documentary short about the decline of Barada (French titles, no narration).
- "Abana". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.