Location in Syria

Coordinates: 33°04′16″N 36°11′3″E / 33.07111°N 36.18417°E / 33.07111; 36.18417Coordinates: 33°04′16″N 36°11′3″E / 33.07111°N 36.18417°E / 33.07111; 36.18417
Grid position 260/275 PAL
Country  Syria
Governorate Daraa Governorate
District Al-Sanamayn District
Nahiyah Al-Sanamayn
Elevation 640 m (2,100 ft)
Population (2004)
  Total 26,268
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
  Summer (DST) +3 (UTC)

Al-Sanamayn (Arabic: الصنمين, also spelled Sanamein, Sanamain, Sunamein) is a city in southern Syria, administratively part of the Daraa Governorate and the center of al-Sanamayn District. It is located 55 kilometres (34 miles) north of Daraa and 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Damascus. Nearby localities include Kafr Shams to the northwest, Deir al-Bukht to the north, Jabab to the northeast, Bassir to the east, Tubna to the southeast, Inkhil to the southwest and Qayta to the west.[1]

According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), al-Sanamayn had a population of 26,268 in the 2004 census. In addition to being capital of the al-Sanamayn District, the city is also the administrative center and second largest locality of the al-Sanamayn nahiyah ("subdistrict") which consists of 16 localities with a collective population of 113,316 in 2004.[2] The city's inhabitants are predominantly Sunni Muslims.[3] Al-Sanamayn has an altitude of 640 metres (2,100 feet).


Roman era

The name al-Sanamayn is Arabic for "the Two Idols." It has been identified with the Roman-era village of Aere,[4][5][6] a station mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary on the road between Damascus to the north and Nawa to the south.[5] A temple in al-Sanamayn dedicated to Tyche, the Greek goddess of fortune, has been dated to 191 CE.[4][6] Another was apparently dedicated to Tyche's Roman equivalent, Fortuna, who was central to Bosra's state cult; it dates from the early to mid-3rd-century CE, during the reign of emperor Septimius Severus.[5] A Batanean inscription from the reign of Roman emperor Julian the Apostate in the mid to late 4th-century was discovered in al-Sanamayn.[7]

Medieval Islamic period

A peace treaty between the Baldwin I, the Crusader king of Jerusalem, and Toghtekin, the Muslim ruler of Damascus was signed at al-Sanamayn in 1111 CE.[8] The treaty was signed after a Crusader army pursuing Muslim forces to the Lejah was taken by surprise and surrounded at al-Sanamayn.[9] In December 1168 a Zengid army was assembled at al-Sanamayn to launch an expedition towards Egypt to check the suspected independent ambitions of the Fatimid vizier Shirkuh, who was originally dispatched to Egypt by the Zengids to stave off a Crusader invasion. Zengid sultan Nur al-Din awarded each soldier 20 dinars before they departed.[10]

The place was visited by medieval Syrian geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi in the 1220s during Ayyubid rule, and noted it was "a town in the Hauran, 2 marches from Damascus."[11] From the Middle Ages to the present day, the temple dedicated to Tyche was used as a mosque. Today it is also one of the best preserved Roman edifices in Syria.[6]

Ottoman era

As in other towns on the Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) caravan route, the Ottoman sultan Selim I constructed a fortress in al-Sanamayn sometime between 1516 and 1520.[12] Local janissaries were garrisoned at the fortress in al-Sanamayn in contrast to nearby Muzayrib, which was manned by imperial troops.[13] In 1596 the town appeared in the Ottoman tax registers as Sanamayn and was part of the nahiya (subdistrict) of Bani Kilab in the qadaa (district) of Hauran. It had an entirely Muslim population consisting of 80 households and 37 bachelors. Taxes were paid on wheat, barley, summer crops, goats and beehives, and a water mill.[14] In 1672, the village contained a congregational mosque with a minaret, two small mosques, a large khan (caravanserai) and hammam (bathhouse), but had no market.[12] The Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi noted that some prostitutes sought work by the roadside in al-Sanamayn.[12]

In the mid-19th-century, explorer Josias Leslie Porter, noted that the ruins of a few temples were present and that the most "striking building" was a Corinthian-style, ornamented limestone temple that had since been converted to a Christian church. In addition he noted "there are the remains of several large and beautiful buildings, and some of the houses are in the best style of Hauran architecture." Among the features of these structures were large walls, stone doors, roofs and window shutters and basalt character.[5] During roughly the same time period it was reported by the Royal Geographic Society that al-Sanamayn was an entirely Muslim village with about 60 houses and with an entrance marked by large basalt blocks.[15] It belonged to a Turkoman family known as Kawwas-oghlu who maintained encampments between the town and Khan Dannun to the north. Al-Sanamayn was "well supplied with water," contained several bird species and its pools were filled with leeches which would be collected and sold in the markets of Damascus.[16] In 1898 the Baedeker Palestine and Syria: Handbook for travellers noted it as "an excellent example of a Hauran village."[17]

Modern era

Towards the end of World War II the Free French forces maintained a headquarters at al-Sanamayn. Syria was ruled by the French Mandate at the time.[18]

Al-Sanamayn was among the first cities to stage mass demonstrations against the government of Bashar al-Assad on 18 March 2011, joining other Hauran cities like Daraa, Inkhil, Jasim and Da'el. According to opposition activists security forces did not fire on demonstrators that day.[19] On 25 March, however, 20 protesters were shot and killed by government forces after burning down a statue of late president Hafez al-Assad, the current president's father.[20] An opposition activist in Damascus claimed that several protesters -as high as 20 according to some witnesses- were killed while attempting to march towards Daraa in a show of solidarity before being attacked by security forces, although that claim could not be confirmed. A government official claimed an armed group assaulted the Syrian Army headquarters in al-Sanamayn.[21] On 18 September, and according to activists, an eleven-year boy was allegedly killed after being shot in the head by security forces during a boycott protest by students in al-Sanamayn on the first day of the 2011-2012 school year.[22]

On 11 April 2013, the town was recaptured by the Syrian Army.[23]


  1. Sanamayn Map. Mapcarta. Map depicts al-Sanamayn and nearby localities.
  2. General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Daraa Governorate. (Arabic)
  3. Yassin-Kassab, Robin. After all this bloodshed, there is no going back for Syria. The Guardian. 2011-06-16.
  4. 1 2 Butcher, 2003, p. 237
  5. 1 2 3 4 Porter, 1858, p. 535
  6. 1 2 3 Nelles Guide, 1999, p. 56
  7. Satre, 2005, p. 209
  8. Shatzmiller, 1993, p. 204.
  9. Gibb, 2003, p. 113
  10. Burns, 2005, p. 159
  11. le Strange, 1890, pp. 530-531.
  12. 1 2 3 Petersen 2012, p. 55.
  13. Peters, 1994, p. 154
  14. Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 209
  15. Newbold, 1846, p. 335
  16. Newbold, 1846, p. 337
  17. Baedeker 1898:183.
  18. Michie, 1942, p. 82.
  19. Sterling, Joe. Daraa: The spark that lit the Syrian flame. CNN. 2012-03-01.
  20. Protests in Syria: Road to Damascus. The Economist. 2011-03-26.
  21. Troops open fire as protests explode across Syria. USA Today. Originally published by Associated Press. 2011-03-25.
  22. Child shot dead in Syria protests. UPI. United Press International, Inc. 2011-09-18.
  23. Bassem Mroue (11 April 2013). "Syrian troops launch counterattack on south". Associated Press. Retrieved 9 June 2013.


External links

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