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Coordinates: 33°30′00″N 36°25′15″E / 33.50000°N 36.42083°E / 33.50000; 36.42083

View of Ghouta from the mountains surrounding the area
A satellite view of Damascus in 2006

Ghouta (Arabic: غُوطَةُ دِمَشْقَ / ALA-LC: Ḡūṭat Dimašq) is a countryside and suburban area in southwestern Syria that surrounds the city of Damascus along its eastern and southern rim.


Ghouta is the Arabic term (ghuta) for 'garden'.[1]


The Ghouta is an oasis formed by the Barada River, as its waters flow east of Mount Qasioun, and its seven tributaries. It surrounds the city of Damascus. To the east and south of the Ghouta lies the Marj plain, which forms a narrow belt of fields,[2] and south of that lies the Hauran plain. The Barada River Valley borders the Ghouta to the northeast.[3] The area north of the Ghouta is less fertile and eventually desolate hill country. To the west of the region is the Anti-Lebanon Mountains.[2]

The Ghouta is historically the most celebrated 'green zone' (a verdant, fertile area around an urban center) in the Levant, according to the historian Beshara Doumani.[4] He also notes that its fame in this regard persists, despite the significant loss of its planted areas to the development of suburban sprawl, extensive highways, and the effects of the Syrian Civil War.[5] It was historically characterized by farming villages, vast gardens, orchards, and vineyards, which stretched up to 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) from the limits of the Old City of Damascus. The lands of the Ghouta were fed by irrigation. These factors distinguished it from the rain-dependent, mainly grain-growing Marj.[3]

The size of the Ghouta has varied considerably at different times and according to different surveys and estimates. In the 20th century, the Syrian journalist Muhammad Kurd Ali approximated that it spanned an area 20 by 10 kilometers (12.4 mi × 6.2 mi).[6] while a 2000 a survey reported that the region spanned 19,000 hectares.[7]


The Jerusalemite geographer, al-Muqaddasi (d. 991), mentions the Ghouta as being one of the six rural territories belonging to Jund Dimashq (district of Damascus).[a]

Since ancient times, canals dug by Damascenes provided irrigation of land on either side of the Barada, increasing the size of the Ghouta to the south and east of the city.[8] Separating the city from the dry grasslands bordering the Syrian Desert, the Ghouta has historically provided its inhabitants with a variety of cereals, vegetables and fruits.[9]

Ottoman period[edit]

Throughout most of the 19th century, most of the Ghouta's farmlands were held by middle-class, small-scale landholders, who the historian James Reilly terms as "gentleman farmers".[10] This type of land tenure was enabled by "the intensive and commercial nature of irrigated agriculture", according to Doumani.[10] These farmers, part of whom were tenants and the other part possessors of usufruct rights, did not cultivate the lands themselves, but hired laborers with the considerable revenues they derived from their small plots.[10]

In the early 20th century, an estimated three-quarters of the Ghouta's lands were owned by small and middle-sized planters, known as zurra, a rare occurrence among the agricultural regions of the Levant at that time. The remainder of the lands were owned by members of the Damascene urban elite.[10]

French colonial period[edit]

Ghouta was the site of a French offensive against Druze rebels in 1926.[11]

Independent Syria[edit]

In 1965, the first small-scale state-owned farm collectives in Syria were established in the Ghouta, afterward spreading to other areas of the country.[12]

Eventually the irrigated agricultural area in the Damascus countryside reached a size of 370 square kilometers (140 sq mi). In the 1980s, urban growth from Damascus started replacing agricultural use with housing and industry, shrinking the green zone.[13]

Before the Syrian Civil War, the area was home to about two million people,[14] but in 2017 the population was estimated to be about 400,000.[15]

Syrian Civil War[edit]

During the civil unrest that began in Syria in March 2011, some eastern Ghouta residents joined the protests against Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad and joined the Syrian rebels, expelling Syrian government forces by November 2012. In February 2013, Syrian rebels captured parts of the ring road on the edge of Damascus and entered the Jobar district of the capital city.[16] Backed by Hezbollah, the Syrian Arab Army counterattacked and in May 2013 began a siege of Eastern Ghouta.

In mid-2017, the main rebel faction in the area was Jaysh al-Islam, based in Douma (with an estimated 10–15,000 fighters in the region in early 2018[17]). The second largest was Faylaq al-Rahman, an official affiliate of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), controlling much of central and western parts of Ghouta, including the Jobar and Ain Terma districts. Ahrar al-Sham (based in Harasta) and Tahrir al-Sham (HTS - controlling smaller districts such as Arbin, Hawsh al-Ashari and Beit Nayim, with an estimated strength in the area of 500 in February 2018[18]) had a far smaller presence.[19]

The residents described the life under the control of Islamist rebels as "hell" to a Channel 4 correspondent as they were forcibly conscripted, prevented from leaving and had no water and electricity.[20]

In February 2018, the Syrian army launched an operation to dislodge rebels from the area. In early March 2018, the Syrian army had captured 59% of the Eastern Ghouta pocket. On 7 April 2018, at least 48 people were reportedly killed in a chemical attack in Douma, which resulted in an armed response from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom.[21] On 14 April 2018, the Syrian Army officially declared Eastern Ghouta to be free of militants, securing it under government control.[22]

List of settlements in Ghouta[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The others being Hawrān, al-Bathaniyya, al-Jawlān, al-Biqāʿ and al-Hūla. See: Al-Muqaddasi, The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions (Being a translation of "Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Maʿrifat al-Aqalim"), Reading 1994, p. 141 ISBN 1-873938-14-4
  1. ^ Lehrman 1980, p. 190.
  2. ^ a b Grehan 2007, p. 23.
  3. ^ a b Taylor, p. 40.
  4. ^ Doumani 2007, p. 247.
  5. ^ Doumani 2017, p. 247.
  6. ^ Grehan 2007, pp. 23, 237, note 3.
  7. ^ Elhadj 2006, p. 149, note 293.
  8. ^ "Damascus - Landscape - City site". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  9. ^ Al Zoughbi, Samira (2005). "An Analysis of Agriculture-Environment Interactions and Policy Options for Sustainable Agriculture in Eastern Al Ghouta (Syria)" (PDF). Farming Systems and Poverty: Making a Difference -- Proceedings of the 18th International Symposium of the International Farming Systems Association: A Global Learning Opportunity. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. p. 31. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d Doumani 2017, p. 258.
  11. ^ "11. French Syria (1919-1946)". Retrieved 2022-09-17.
  12. ^ Heydemann 1999, p. 195.
  13. ^ Collelo, Thomas, ed. (1988). "Land, Water, and Climate". Syria: a country study. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. LCCN 87600488.
  14. ^ Alsaafin, Linah (6 February 2015). "Syria's Eastern Ghouta: the latest casualty of war". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  15. ^ Almohibany, Amer (22 October 2017). "In Syria region under regime siege, children die of hunger". France 24. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Damascus on Edge as War Seeps into Syrian Capital". New York Times. 10 February 2013.
  17. ^ Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria's eastern Ghouta?, Deutsche Welle, 20.02.2018
  18. ^ Explainer: Who's fighting whom in Syria's Ghouta?, BBC Monitoring, 22 February 2018
  19. ^ Wisam Franjieh In Besieged Eastern Ghouta, Rebel Infighting Increases Civilian Suffering, Syria Deeply, Aug. 1, 2017
  20. ^ Channel 4, Inside Ghouta as Syrian government fully controls Damascus for the first time in seven years, 24 May 2018
  21. ^ Loveluck, Louisa. "Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in eastern Ghouta — rescue workers". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Syrian army announces eastern Ghouta free of militants: state media". Reuters. 14 April 2018.


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