Damascus is the capital and largest city of Syria. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world (the river Barada flows through it marking a sharp contrast to the surrounding arid desert areas). Located in south-western Syria, Damascus is embedded in the eastern foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range about 50 miles from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. The origin of Damascus is unknown. Early mentions are found in Egyptian inscriptions and in the Am Tab.