The Syrian national library in Damascus is a treasure chest of world history.
Damascus is one of the ancient great cities of the world, and considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. A 10th century geographer, Al-Maqaddasi, said Damascus ranked among the four earthly paradise.
Mark Twain, upon his visit to the city in 1867, remarked, “To Damascus, years are only moments, decades are only flitting trifles of time. She measures time not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise and prosper and crumble to ruin. She is a type of immortality.” A burgeoning art movement had been developing in Damascus since the 1980s or so until the present civil wars era. Artists from around the word as well as Syria exhibited regularly in the proliferating galleries throughout the city, as the arts were sponsored by, although also censored to some extent, by the state.
Known as the Elba tablets, these clay scripts include over 1500 complete tablets and 4500 fragments, written in both Sumerian and an ancient, as yet not assuredly identified, language. They date from 2500 BC until the destruction of the city of Elba in 2250 BC.
They were discovered in 1975, in situ, on collapsed shelves, just as they were left 4000 years ago. The palace library containing the tablets was destroyed and burned. The fire baked the tablets in place, helping to preserve them.
They provide the first known references to Lebanon and the Canaanites. “Damaski” is noted in the tablets, which many understand to be referencing the city Damascus. The tablets are held today in Syrian museums in Damascus, Aleppo and Idlib.
Hafez Al-Assad (1930-2000), father of current president Bashar Al-Assad, was president of Syria from 1971 until his death in 2000.