Barada river in Damascus near the Four Seasons Hotel. The water level is uncharacteristically high in this view from the spring of 2009.
|Etymology||From barid, meaning 'cold' in Semitic languages|
Throughout the arid plateau region east of Damascus, oases, streams, and a few minor rivers that empty into swamps and small lakes provide water for local irrigation. Most important of these is the Barada, a river that rises in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and disappears into the desert. The Barada flows out of the karst spring of Ain al-Fijah, about 27 kilometres (17 mi) north west of Damascus in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, but its true source is Lake Barada, a small lake that is also a karst spring located about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Zabadani. The Barada descends through a steep, narrow gorge named "Rabwe" before it arrives at Damascus, where it divides into seven branches that irrigate the Al Ghutah () oasis, the location of Damascus. Eventually the Ghouta reached a size of 370 square kilometers, although in the 1980s, urban growth started replacing agricultural use with housing and industry. The river has also suffered from severe drought in the last decades, mainly due to the lower rainfall rates and the large increase in the population in the area. It also suffers from serious pollution problems, especially in the summer, where there is almost no flow and little water in the basin.
Barada is identified as Abana (or Amanah, in Qere and Ketiv variation in Tanakh and classical Chrysorrhoas) which is the more important of the two rivers of Damascus, Syria and was mentioned in the Book of Kings (2 Kings 5:12). As the Barada rises in the Anti-Libanus, and escapes from the mountains through a narrow gorge, its waters debouch fan-like, in canals or rivers, the name of one of which, the Banias river, retains a trace of Abana.
John MacGregor, who gives a description of them in his book Rob Roy on the Jordan, affirmed that as a work of hydraulic engineering, the system and construction of the canals, by which the Abana and Pharpar were used for irrigation, might be considered as one of the most complete and extensive in the world. In the Bible, Naaman exclaims that the Abana and Pharpar are greater than all the waters of Israel.