Description of Mount Qasyoun
Mount Qasyoun or Jabl Qasyoun is the mountain behind Damascus. Houses are built all along its slopes. It’s considered a poorer area because no one wants to hike up the mountain all the time to go to their house. Imagine trying to carry groceries up that high! After awhile it gets so steep and the alleyways so narrow no cars or suzukis can reach there and a person just has to walk and climb up stairs. Yeah so it’s also here we live Not quite that high, just on its lower edges.
We took a micro (little mini-van which is Syria’s version of public transportation) and then a taxi to get all the way to the top. All along the top are fancy restaurants and food stalls. In the Summer this whole area is packed with people trying to escape the heat of the city.
From the top you can see all of Damascus spread out in front of you. It’s cool to see all the green lights and know those are Mosques. It’s also cool to hear various faint athans coming from different points when it’s time to pray.
Mount Qasyoun is quite famous for a number of reasons. First it is THE mountain of Damascus. It is an integral part of its culture and history. This is where the prophet (s) first stood overlooking Old Damascus’s lushness and turned away, saying he would not like to have his Jannah in this life. It is also said that Canun and Habil (Cain and Abel) fought and were buried on this mountain. A few sources also report that Maryam (as) fled here for refuge with her newborn baby Isa (as). There’s also a Mosque way at the top called “Arbaeen” (Forty) and is said to be a place where 40 prophets have prayed.
In history, many people moved to the mountain after various persecutions including a great numbers of Kurds who have settled here. Even today, it is a refuge for students from all over the world.
Here is one of the first journal entries I wrote when I arrived in Damascus for anyone who would like some more reading
Damascus – I hear its call but I am too scared to answer it. Outside my window I still hear boys playing in the street even at this late hour. An old man coughs as he walks by below. Somewhere a cat meows so loud you almost think it is a child’s cry. I hear some horns beeping coming from the Sahah. Damascus is calling me.
Its charm just wraps around a person and doesn’t let go. So many students have been here over the years from all over the world and they keep coming back. Their memories of this enchanting land never fade. My memories never fade. There is one memory I have, almost four years ago to the day of writing this. We climbed on top of F&T’s little roof using their wooden ladder from their balcony. There, we were so high up on Mount Qasyoun we could see the entire city before us. I could see people on their rooftops nearby- taking down their washings or just preparing things. They sky turned a vivid hot pink and gold degree by degree and just when we thought it was so beautiful, the first Athaan rang out “Allaaaaaaaaahu Akbar, Allaaaaaaaaahu Akbar” and then another and another until we could see all the green fluorescent lights of Musallahs in the city light up one by one and heard all their calls.
This is Damascus.
How I have missed it. I am not well enough to venture out but I have missed it with a desperation I didn’t know. I want to walk down the Souks in my dusty Jilbab. I want to laugh in the internet cafe. I want to pray in the dark coolness of my local Masjid.
I wonder if the Sahabah felt the call of this city too. Abu Darda is buried here, Bilal, some of the mothers of the believers, so many others. I think of all the righteous people that came before me. Salahuddin, Ibn Taymiyya, Rabia al Adawiiya, Imam Nawawi, scholars, Sufis, teachers. This was their city. They walked through it, they breathed its air. They lived here. They died here.
I still don’t know what I’m doing in Damascus, but I do know that somehow within my soul there is an answer to its call.