Deir ez-Zor or Dayr Az Zawr is a city in northeastern Syria on the Euphrates River and capital of the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, 450 km from the capital, Damascus, 320 Km south east of Aleppo and 206 Km from Palmyra. It has a population of 133,000 (1994 estimate). It is a prosperous farming area, with cattle-breeding, cereals and cotton crops. Since the discovery of light crude oil in the Syrian desert it has become a centre for the country's oil extraction industry. It is also a minor centre for tourism with many tourist facilities as traditional riverbank restaurants up to 5-star hotels, a hub for trans-desert travel and has an airport in Al-Jafra suburb. Also there are salt rock mines nearby.
Deir ez-Zor and the Euphrates valley date back a long way. Starting in the 3rd century BC, Deir Ez-Zor was a part of the Akkadian empire under the King Sargon I from 2700 to 2550 BC. It then fell into the hands of Hammurabi the famous king who setup the first steps of law. Then it went through the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Persians.
After the defeat of the Persians it became part of the Hellenistic empire under Alexander the Great then it became part of the Seleucid empire. In the Roman period it flourished as a trading point between the Mediterranean and the Indian subcontinent. During Roman times it was an important trading post between the Roman Empire and India. Conquered by Zenobia, it became part of the kingdom of Palmyra.
Islamic conquest of the area took place in the 4th century Hegira and it was ruled by the Hamdanids of Aleppo, then the Ayyubids and Mamelukes successively. It was destroyed in the Mongol invasion and left to the desert, till recently when it was redeveloped for the benefit of the Syrian economy to service Oil and Petrol production in the fields nearby.
Deir ez-Zor is situated 85 km to the northwest of the archaeological remains of Dura-Europos and 120 km northwest of the remains of the ancient city of Mari.
The modern town was built by the Ottoman Empire in 1867. France occupied Deir ez-Zor in 1921 and made it the seat of a large garrison. In 1941 British-led forces defeated the French during the Syria-Lebanon campaign, which included a battle over Deir, and they handed administration of the region to the Free French. In 1946 it became part of independent Syria.
Main attractions and historical building
Deir Ez-Zor itself does not have much of a history or any attraction for historical visitors and tourists. However nearby are Dura Europos, Halabiye and Zalabiye, and the excavation site at Mari.
The city is famous for its suspension bridge that spans the Euphrates and was built by the French in 1930.
It also has a regional-level museum and big Arab Cultural Centre. The newly established Al-Furat University has its centre in Deir ez Zor. Of this University, faculties of Agriculture, Science, Arts and Humanities, Education, Law, Petrochemical Engineering and Medicine are located in the city, while other faculties spread in neighbouring districts. Many other vocational schools and professional institutes also provide post-secondary education. The local daily newspaper Al Furat is published there.