Hawran or Hauran (houränˈ) [key] [Heb., = hollow or cavernous land], district, SW Syria. It is a largely treeless region marked by conical volcanic peaks, barren lava fields, and rich lava soil. In the northeast are the Druze Mts., many of whose numerous caverns were once inhabited. Major towns are Dara, Busra ash-Sham, and Izra, which date back to Hellenistic times. Grains and fruits (including grapes) are grown in Hawran. Most of the inhabitants are Druze, who migrated from Lebanon in the 18th and 19th cent. The Hawran district belonged, at least in part, to the biblical kingdom of Bashan, which the Israelites conquered. Designated the northeast boundary of the Promised Land, Hawran later became the Roman province of Auranitis. The region was converted to Christianity by the late 2d cent. and prospered until the Arab invasion of the 7th cent. During the Crusades, Muslims who were driven out of Palestine moved to Hawran to make a stand against the Christians. The district has many ancient towns whose buildings and furniture are made entirely of lava; about 300 of these "giant cities of Bashan" have been located. Inscriptions in Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Sabaean (southern Arabic) abound.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.