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Construction of the Hauran, which is predominant in remote villages, but is pushed back in cities. Izra '

Hauran , Arabic حوران, DMG Ḥaurān , is a volcanic landscape in the southwest of Syria , which extends south to over the Jordanian border. Hills with scree fields of black basalt boulders , isolated volcanic peaks and, in the central plain, extensive wheat fields that thrive on fertile, reddish weathered soils are characteristic. In ancient Greece and Rome , Auranitis was part of today's area. The Hauran flourished especially in late antiquity and was a densely populated, economically important region.


Satellite image

The Hauran is part of a continuous basalt plateau, stretching from Saudi Arabia to Jordan to almost ghouta -Oase near Damascus extends. In a broader sense, the Hauran also includes the Jordanian mountain region around Irbid and in Syria the three landscapes Golan (Jawlan, Jaulan) in the west, the actual Hauran plain in the center and in the east the mountain region of Jabal ad-Duruz . Golan and Hauran are separated by the Nahr al-Alak, a tributary of the Ehrer, which flows into the Jarmuk . The north-western border forms the Hermon Mountains . To the north, the red-brown cultivated areas with scattered basalt chunks merge about 50 kilometers from Damascus into the limestone area of ​​the central Syrian plain with light brown soils. Within Syria, 18,000 square kilometers belong to the basalt landscape; further east this includes an area of ​​8,000 square kilometers of dry, unpopulated and drainless basalt desert, which is already part of the great inner Syrian desert steppe .

The actual Hauran belongs to the Syrian governorates of Quneitra , as-Suwaida and Dar'a . The larger cities in the region are Dera'a , Bosra , as-Suwaida , Shahba and Izra ' . A smaller part is in present-day Jordan.


According to the age of volcanism , two types of soil can be distinguished. The volcanic effusions recognizable in the landscape in the form of bulging and brittle flat lava originate mainly from the Pleistocene . To this day, they are only imperfectly weathered and have left karst and barren stone surfaces with a thin layer of soil in between on flat hills and mountains . The most recent, gas-rich effusions from the Holocene formed sterile stone fields. On the other hand, the cover erosions of lightly flowing lava that occurred in the older Miocene have spread to a plain in central Hauran. The volcanic material has decomposed on the surface and formed deep red-brown clay soils, which are ideal for growing grain. Fine soil suitable for arable farming has also accumulated in hollows and flat valleys.

The barren, stony basalt land of the Golan Heights is 700 to 1000 meters high, the adjoining plain of the Hauran, in which the highway between Damascus and Amman runs, is 400 to 800 meters. The Jabal ad-Duruz forms a closed mountain area that is over 1000 meters high in an elliptical extension of 80 kilometers in length in north-south direction and 40 kilometers in width. Some volcanoes reach 1500 meters, the highest peak is Tell Qeni at 1803 meters. The numerous volcanic cones are mostly arranged in rows that run from south-southeast to north-northwest and indicate the location of the crevices that formed when they were formed.


Stone field in the otherwise flat central Hauran plain. Scattered in it are small spots with a brown bottom. Winter wheat thrives there, grown by hand and harvested in early summer
At the summit of Tell Qeni. The abundant rainfall often falls as snow in January. On average over several years there are 10 to 20 days with snowfall on Jabal ad-Duruz, and over 20 on the Golan.

On the Golan, the shallow and stony soils are not very fertile, despite high levels of rainfall, and were traditionally used as a cattle breeding area (until the displacement in 1967 in the Six Day War ). The division into deep, fertile soils in the central plain and barren stone fields with little soil on the hills, which follows from geology for the rest of Hauran, is regionally dissolved into mixed landscape forms. There are also piles of stones within the large-scale arable farming areas, and there are also smaller fertile fields between the areas strewn with basalt blocks. Even within the Ledja , the largest stone desert area northwest of the Jabal ad-Duruz, green fields stand out. The most fertile areas are in the east below the Jabal ad-Duruz, from whose western slopes flat wadis , which are only filled with water in winter, stretch down into the plain.

As in all of Syria, precipitation falls predominantly in the winter months, with a maximum in January. It rains more than around Damascus, as the low Golan Heights are easier to overcome for the Mediterranean rain winds than the mountain ranges further north. The Dera'a station records an annual average of 280 millimeters, while in the mountain areas 300 to 400 millimeters of precipitation fall. In principle, dry field cultivation is therefore possible. On the other hand, there are no rivers or rich springs, apart from the Jarmuk, which rises on the border in the south-west of the area, and its smaller tributaries. The few springs have only a small discharge, so irrigated agriculture is hardly possible in Hauran. The Romans built cisterns and small reservoirs to make the Hauran a densely populated province. Today, wells are driven into the basalt underground up to 100 to 300 meters deep.

Wheat has been grown in large fields since the 19th century . Vines grow on the black lava stones of Jabal ad-Duruz , islands of trees with olives and figs lie between stone walls , and fruit tree plantations can be seen on the plains. Due to a lack of wood, houses in Hauran have been built consistently from basalt blocks since Roman times, with roof structures that do without wooden beams. But at least in some places the mountain areas, which are now bare everywhere, were still densely forested in the middle of the 19th century. Geographical studies from this period report that the Golan Heights near Quneitra were overgrown with holm oaks and maples all the way up . Old tall oaks on Jebel ad-Duruz are said to have been processed into charcoal for the Damascus market.


From the 2nd century BC The Hauran came under the control of the Arab Nabataeans , whose economy was based primarily on trade. During their time, among others, Bostra (today Bosra) and Suada (Roman Dionysias, today as-Suweida) developed into flourishing cities. In the 1st century AD, the influence of the Nabataeans weakened until the region was annexed by the Romans in 106 AD and made the province of Arabia Petraea . Bosra was the main Nabataean trading post and became the provincial capital under the Romans. The part of the Hauran was called Auranitis. To the north was the Roman province of Syria .

A large number of ruins of settlements from Roman times have been preserved in a small area, the prosperity of which is evident in the quality of the public buildings and temples. The construction of these villages was only possible thanks to the technology developed by the Romans to build cisterns that held back rainwater for the dry season. They could manage themselves relatively autonomously. The strategos (village chief) mentioned in Greek inscriptions probably corresponded to a local sheikh rather than a dependent imperial administrator. A dense, right-angled network of paths connected the individual villages, some of which had several thousand inhabitants. The military and caravan route strata Diocletiana , laid out in the late 3rd century, led from the eastern border of the Roman Empire via Resafa , Palmyra , Damascus and Bosra to Amman.

From 1./2. Century AD up to the 7th century, the residential buildings followed the same basic principle: The houses were two-story with a central main room that extended over both floors. A high wall surrounded a private inner courtyard through which the adjoining rooms, which were not connected by doors, could be reached. The two-shell walls made of basalt ashlars were erected without mortar; Door and window lintels as well as ceiling panels were also made of basalt, not infrequently also the doors themselves. The access to the flat roof was accessible via an external staircase. Three bridges have survived from the Roman period: the Djemerrin bridge , the Kharaba bridge and the Nimreh bridge .

In late antiquity , the cultivation areas were expanded again, and the densely populated area experienced an economic boom that lasted at least into the middle of the 6th century when the Justinian plague led to high population losses. Soon after the Islamic expansion in the 7th century, the villages were largely abandoned and nomadic Bedouins used the land as summer pastures. In 1516 the Ottomans subjugated the Hauran and formed the Vilayet Syria with a Sanjak Hauran, which was still predominantly nomadic area. In the centuries that followed, frequent raids by nomads and a lack of state control over security caused many farmers to leave their villages. Particularly in the southeastern region, a 25 to 30 kilometer wide strip of cultivated land was abandoned, which at the beginning of the 19th century lay outside the border line between the agricultural area in the west in the unpopulated desert in the east.

Since around 1700 Druze migrated from Lebanon to the mountain area named after them. Until the middle of the 19th century, the Druze arriving from Lebanon and Hermon mostly settled in the north of the Jabal ad-Duruz. The largest emigration from Lebanon was caused by the Lebanese civil war of 1860 and the subsequent punitive actions. Many of the Druze who had fled to the Hauran wanted to return to Lebanon after an amnesty , were no longer accepted there and finally settled on the western and southern slopes of Jebal ad-Duruz, where they founded new villages. The Hauran Plain to the west was not uninhabited, in contrast to the mountainous region. There were a few villages here with Christian and Muslim inhabitants in the 19th century. At the transition between the two areas, there was increasing tension between Christians and Druze who wanted to expand their settlement area into the plain. In the 1870s, the Druze looted several villages west of as-Suwaida, leading to a military action by Ottoman forces in 1879 . To settle the conflict, the Christians returned to most of their villages, while the Druze stayed in others. At the beginning of the 20th century, further expansion efforts and attacks by Druze followed in the Hauran plain, especially on villages near Bosra. As a result, the actions were unsuccessful because they were severely punished by the Ottoman army.

The Golan was ruled by Bedouins until the beginning of the 20th century. In Izra ' has remained a strong Christian minority since the Byzantine period. For all population groups living here, the Hauran served as a retreat and is therefore considered to be rather traditional.


In the 19th and into the 20th century, the Hauran was one of the most important grain-growing areas. Barley and maize were used for self-sufficiency, wheat was intended for the market. Around 1890 Damascus was supplied with a quarter of the wheat harvest, two thirds were exported and transported to the Palestinian ports of Haifa and Acre , 150 kilometers away . After the wheat harvest in early summer, 4,000 to 6,000 camels were on their way every day, laden with a little over 100 kilograms of wheat. The transport costs were extremely high and halved the proceeds.

In order to reduce transport costs and to supply Damascus with cheap wheat, the Hauran Railway was opened in 1884 , and a year later the continuation of this narrow-gauge railway to the port of Beirut was completed. The Hejazbahn running parallel to the Hauran Railway in standard gauge was opened to traffic in 1903 for the Damascus Amman line. Another route from Dera'a to Haifa was opened for the transport of wheat in 1904/05. During the First World War, the rails were partially dismantled, from the years afterwards the expansion of the road network was favored.

After the merger of Syria with Egypt in 1958 to form the United Arab Republic , the first major land reform was decided. With it, the large estates of several hundred hectares should be divided up among small farmers. Due to a drought that lasted until 1962 and the political crisis with the separation from Egypt in 1961, the land reform was only implemented with the new socialist course from 1963. The ownership sizes for rain-fed land were set at 80 to 200 hectares per family. If it was implemented everywhere, this affected the large wheat fields and some tree crops in Hauran. There were no large estates on the Jabal ad-Duruz; the Druze who live there in small villages are mostly small farmers on their own land.


  • Eva Marie Bopp: The ancient living culture of the Hauran in Syria. German Archaeological Institute, Orient Department (Ed.), Marie Leidorf Publishing House, Rahden / Westphalia 2006, ISBN 3-89646-649-6 .
  • Immanuel Benzinger : Auranitis 1 . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume II, 2, Stuttgart 1896, Col. 2425.
  • David Engels : The Political History of the Syrian Hauran in the Hellenistic Period. Bonner Jahrbücher 207, 2007, pp. 175–210.
  • Frank Rainer Scheck, Johannes Odenthal: Syria. High cultures between the Mediterranean and the Arabian desert . 4th edition, DuMont Reiseverlag, Ostfildern 2009, pp. 394-425 (DuMont Art Travel Guide) ISBN 978-3-7701-3978-1
  • Eugen Wirth : Syria, a geographic study of the country. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1971, pp. 58, 124, 212 f, 347-349, 408-420.
  • Reinhard Wolfart: On the geology and hydrogeology of Syria with special consideration of the south and north-western parts of the country. (Supplements to the Geological Yearbook 68) Hanover 1966.

Historical travel reports

  • H. Guthe et al. a .: Dr. A. Stübels Reise nach dem Diret et-Tulul and Hauran 1882. Journal of the German Palestine Association 12, Wiesbaden 1889, pp. 225–302.
  • Max Freiherr von Oppenheim : From the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf through the Haurän, the Syrian Desert and Mesopotamia (1899). 2 vols. Berlin 1899–1900. Online at Internet Archive
  • George Beef: The Hauran Landscape in Roman Times and Present. Journal of the German Palestine Association 21, Wiesbaden 1898, pp. 1-46.
  • Johann Gottfried Wetzstein : Travel report about Hauran and the Trachonen together with an appendix about the Sabaean monuments in Eastern Syria. Verlag von Dietrich Reimer, Berlin 1860. Online at Internet Archive

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Warwick Ball: Rome in the East. The Transformation of an Empire. Routledge, London / New York 2000, p. 238
  2. ^ Ina Eichner: Rural houses of the late antique-early Byzantine period in Syria and Cilicia. In: Ina Eichner, Vasiliki Tsamakda (ed.): Syria and its neighbors from late antiquity to the Islamic period. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 2009, p. 85 f
  3. ^ Norman N. Lewis: Nomads and settlers in Syria and Jordan, 1800–1980. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1987, pp. 19, 80, 90f