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|Population (2004 census)|
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Muzayrib (Arabic: مزيريب, also spelled Mzerib or Mzereeb) is a town in southern Syria, administratively part of the Daraa Governorate, located northwest of Daraa on the Syrian-Jordanian borders. Nearby localities include al-Shaykh Saad and Nawa to the north, Da'el, Tafas and al-Shaykh Maskin to the northeast, and al-Yadudah to the southeast. According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics, Muzayrib had a population of 12,640 in the 2004 census. The town is also the administrative center of the Muzayrib nahiyah consisting of nine villages with a combined population of 72,625. Muzayrib also has a community of Palestinian refugees.
Under the Ottomans, the town, famous for its springs and bazaars, served as the first major resting place along the Hajj caravan route from Damascus to Mecca. The town along with al-Shaykh Saad served as the main administrative center for the region of Hauran. In the 16th century, a fort was built on the orders of Ottoman Sultan, Selim I. The fort had a bent gateway, unlike other Hajj forts which had a straight entrance, and was built from the local dark grey and hard basalt rock.
Instead of local janissaries, imperial troops were stationed at the fort of Muzayrib. The fort at Muzayrib, strategically located in the hinterland of Damascus, was the most solid demonstration of Ottoman power over Damascus, which experienced several revolts, both popular or by the local jannissary corps. Thus, the provincial leadership of Damascus stringently maintained control over Muzayrib. Because of its important role in the Hajj pilgrimage, large quantities of dry cakes were stored in the fort to provide for pilgrims who were dependent on the cakes for sustenance in their traversal of the desert or in to supply the inhabitants of Damascus in case of a shortage.
Between 1517 and 1757, the hajj caravan at Muzayrib was attacked five times by Bedouins. In 1770, the rebel Egyptian army of Ali Bey led by Ismail Bey and an allied force led by Dhaher al-Omar, the Arab chief of the Galilee, stopped at Muzayrib on their way to capture Damascus. When they reached Muzayrib to face off with Governor Uthman Pasha, Ismail Bey decided to retreat because the encounter coincided with the arrival of the hajj caravan in the town. Dhaher unsuccessfully protested the move and the rebel armies withdrew.
In the 19th-century, the fort at Muzayrib contained large warehouses, minor dwellings and a small mosque. A spring located to the northeast emptied into a pond containing abundant fish. Ruins were situated along the western banks of the spring. Hajj pilgrims who came to Muzayrib, which was still the main resting place of the caravan route, remained in the town for several days, and during each hajj a large open market was held. An observer remarked at the end of the century that the place would have been blossoming, had it not been for the marshy and fever-producing surroundings.
The city was connected to the Ottoman telegraph network based in Damascus by 1875. A narrow gauge 103 kilometres (64 mi) long railway line connecting Muzayrib with Damascus was inaugurated on 14 July 1894; the line was extended to the port city of Beirut in 1985. The railway, owing to its construction along an undeveloped trade route, was a financial failure. However, it helped to open up Lebanon and develop the agricultural industry in fertile volcanic plains of Golan and Hauran, making them the leading producers of wheat crops in the Middle East.
- General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Daraa Governorate. (Arabic)
- واجب- خاص. "قتيلان وستة جرحى في شجار عشائري في تجمع المزيريب للاجئين الفلسطينيين" (in Arabic). تجمع العودة الفلسطيني - واجب. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
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