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This article is about the city in Syria. For the river in Morocco, see Draa River. For other uses, see Dara (disambiguation).
Daraa is located in Syria
Coordinates: 32°37′N 36°6′E / 32.617°N 36.100°E / 32.617; 36.100
Country  Syria
Governorate Daraa Governorate
District Daraa District
Nahiya Daraa
 • Governor Mohammad Khaled al-Hannus[1]
Elevation 435 m (1,427 ft)
Population (2004 census)[2]
 • City 97,969
 • Metro 146,481
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Area code(s) 15

Daraa (Arabic: درعا‎, Levantine Arabic: [ˈdarʕa]), also Darʿā, Dara’a, Deraa, Dera, and Derʿā ("fortress", compare Dura-Europos), is a city in southwestern Syria, just north of the border with Jordan. It is the capital of Daraa Governorate, historically part of the ancient Hauran region. The city is located about 90 kilometres (56 mi) south of Damascus on the Damascus-Amman highway, and is used as a stopping station for travelers. Nearby localities include Umm al-Mayazen and Nasib to the southeast, al-Naimeh to the east, Othman to the north, al-Yadudah to the northwest and Ramtha, Jordan to the southwest.

According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics, Daraa had a population of 97,969 in the 2004 census. It is the administrative center of a nahiyah ("sub-district") which contains eight localities with a collective population of 146,481 in 2004.[2] Its inhabitants are predominantly Sunni Muslims.[3]


Bosra Square in Daraa, Syria

Daraa is an ancient city dating back to the Canaanites. It was mentioned in Egyptian hieroglyphic tablets at the time of the Pharaoh Thutmose III between 1490 and 1436 BC. It was known in those days as the city of Atharaa. It was later mentioned in the Old Testament as "Edre'i,"[4] the capital of Bashan where Moses defeated the city's king, Og.[5]

Classical era[edit]

The city was later known as "Adhri'at" and was part of the Seleucid Kingdom of Syria where it served as the capital of the Batanaea region. Later it became part of the Kingdom of Nabatea in the late 1st-century BCE. Following the Roman conquest by Trajan in 106 CE, Adhri'at was incorporated into the province of Arabia Petraea.[6] By the 3rd-century, it gained the status of a polis ("self-governed city.") Roman historian Eusebius noted Adhri'at was a prominent city of Arabia.[5] In the Byzantine era between the 5th and 6th centuries, it served as a bishop seat and a center for monastic and missionary activity in the Syrian Desert. In 614 the city was sacked by the Sassanid Persian army, but its inhabitants were not massacred.[6]

Adhri'at had a large Jewish population by the early 7th-century and served as a place of Jewish learning. It was ideally situated between the major Jewish centers of Palestine and Babylonia and its residents lit an annual bonfire on Rosh Hashannah in a signal to Babylonia's Jewish communities that the religious new year began.[6]

Islamic era[edit]

According to Ibn Hisham and al-Waqidi, 9th-century biographers of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa tribes immigrated to Adhri'at following their expulsion from Medina. Historian Moshe Sharon dismisses that asserion however, citing the absence of their claims in any Jewish sources and the earlier Muslim reports.[6]

Early Muslim historian Ahmad al-Baladuri lists Adhri'at as one of the towns that surrendered to the Muslims following the Battle of Tabuk in 630, while Muhammad was alive. Consequently, the inhabitants paid jizya tax.[7] However, Baladhuri's account was believed to have been a mistake. Instead, contemporary sources maintain that Adhri'at was conquered by the Rashidun army during the caliphate of Abu Bakr in 634.[8] Adhri'at's residents reportedly celebrated the arrival of the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab when he visited the city, "dancing with swords and sweet basil."[7] Throughout Rashidun and Umayyad rule, the city served as the capital of the al-Bathaniyya subdistrict, part of the larger Jund Dimashq ("military district of Damascus.")[9]

In 906 the population was massacred in a raid by the rebellious Qarmatians.[7] The late 10th-century Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi noted that during the Abbasid period, Adhri'at was a major administrative center on the edge of the desert.[10] He claimed the city was part of the Jund al-Urdunn district and that its territory was "full of villages" and included the region of Jerash to the south of the Yarmouk River.[10][11]

Throughout the Middle Ages, it served as a strategic station on the hajj caravan route between Damascus and Medina and as the gate to central Syria. The Crusaders briefly conquered Adhri'at in the early 12th-century.[12] According to Yaqut al-Hamawi, in the early 13th-century during Ayyubid rule, it was "celebrated for the many learned men who were natives of the place."[10] Later, under the Mamluks and the Ottomans, the city maintained its importance.[12] In 1596 Daraa appeared in the Ottoman tax registers as Madinat Idra'a and was part of the nahiya of Butayna in the Qada of Hauran. It had an entirely Muslim population consisting of 120 households and 45 bachelors. Taxes were paid on wheat, barley, summer crops, goats and/or beehives.[13]

Modern era[edit]

By the 20th-century Adhri'at gained its modern name "Daraa." Following the Ottomans' construction of the Hejaz Railway, it became a chief junction of the railroad. Today Daraa is the southernmost city of Syria on the border with Jordan and a major midpoint between Damascus and Baghdad.[12]

After the Ba'ath Party gained power following the 1963 coup, the new interior minister Amin al-Hafiz appointed Abd al-Rahman al-Khlayfawi as governor of Daraa until 1965.[14] Daraa had recently, before the Syrian Civil War, suffered from reduced water supply in the region, and been straining under the influx of internal refugees who were forced to leave their northeastern lands, due to a drought exacerbated by the government's lack of provision.[15]

Thousands of people protested in the city as part of the 2011 Syrian protests.[16]

Syrian civil war[edit]

See also: Siege of Daraa

The city of Daraa was the starting point of the 2011 uprising against the government lead by President Bashar Al-Assad. It all started when 15 teenagers from the same family (Al-Abazeed) were arrested in early March 2011 for writing an anti-regime slogan on the wall of their school.[citation needed] After attempts to negotiate the release of the children were rejected by the local government, a few hundred protesters gathered in front of al-Omari Mosque on March 18, 2011 calling for reforms and end of corruption.[citation needed] Soon after the gathering increased in size and it is reported that over 3000 people protested on the first day.[citation needed] According to activists, this protest was faced with Syrian security forces opening fire on the protesters killing 3 people.[17] Protests continued daily and on the 20th of March, 7 police men were killed as well as least 4 protesters. During this time the local courthouse, the Ba'ath party headquarters in the city, and the Syriatel building owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Assad, were set on fire. What followed was a government assault on the city as violence continued and intensified all across Syria. The city has witnessed massacres since then, too.[18] A mortar attack on a tent where approximately 100 government supporters and civilians had gathered in the city on May 22, 2014 to discuss the upcoming June 3, 2014 presidential election killed at least 21 and injured scores more. It is not verified who conducted the attack, but Ahmad Masalma, an opposition activist in Daraa, said rebels from the Free Syrian Army umbrella group fired a mortar shell at the tent in a government-held area after repeatedly warning civilians to stay away.[19][20]



Climate data for Dara'a
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 13.3
Average low °C (°F) 3.2
Precipitation mm (inches) 60.9
Avg. precipitation days 10 11 7 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 5 8 48
Source: World Meteorological Organization


  1. ^ "Syria protest town 'has new governor'". France 24. 4 April 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  2. ^ a b General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Daraa Governorate. (Arabic)
  3. ^ Sterling, Joe. Daraa: The spark that lit the Syrian flame. CNN. 2012-03-01.
  4. ^ Deuteronomy 3:1.
  5. ^ a b Negev, p. 150.
  6. ^ a b c d Sharon, 2007, 68.
  7. ^ a b c Sharon, 2007, p. 69.
  8. ^ Houtma, 1993, p. 135.
  9. ^ le Strange, 1890, p. 34.
  10. ^ a b c le Strange, 1890, p. 383.
  11. ^ le Strange, 1890, p. 40.
  12. ^ a b c Sharon, 2007, p. 70.
  13. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 214.
  14. ^ Moubayed, p. 275.
  15. ^ Michael Gunning (26 August 2011). "Background to a Revolution". n+1. 
  16. ^ "Syria to free child prisoners". Al Jazeera. 20 Mar 2011. Retrieved 20 Mar 2011. 
  17. ^ "Middle East unrest: Three killed at protest in Syria". BBC News. 18 March 2011. 
  18. ^ "Killings continue in Syria as UN reaches "massacre" village". Euronews. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  19. ^ http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/23/deadly-mortar-attackhitsassadgatheringinsyria.html
  20. ^ "Pro-Assad rally in Syria attacked, 21 dead". Arab Herald. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 


Further reading[edit]

  • T.E. Lawrence, (various editions) Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Chapter LXXX
  • J.G. Schumacher,(1886) Across the Jordan, pp. 1–148;

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°37′31″N 36°6′22″E / 32.62528°N 36.10611°E / 32.62528; 36.10611