Located to the southeast of Damascus, Qanawat is an ancient city dating back to the Roman Period. It is famous for its impressive, richly-decorated monuments. During the Roman Period, Qanawat (also known as Kanata or Kanatha) was an important city in the Roman Empire as it was considered one of the commercial cities of the Decapolis League. As a Decapolis city, Qanawat enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy. In the 1st century AD, the city was renamed as Septimia Canatha and was annexed to the province of Arabia. Under the Byzantine Empire, the ancient city flourished as a Bishopric. When the Muslim Arabs conquered Syria in the 7th century, Qanawat was deemed unimportant by the invaders and thus started to decline. In the 9th century, the once-mighty city had been reduced to an impoverished village, and by the middle of the 1800s, the city was deserted. Majority of what’s left of the city dates back to the Christian period, particularly the buildings’ renovated portions and the additional structures.
Some of the most notable ruins of Qanawat include a Roman bridge and a theater hewn entirely from rock. The theater has nine rows of seats and an orchestra pit whose diameter measures 62 feet. Other sites that must not be missed are an aqueduct, a nymphaeum (a monument dedicated to the nymphs), a large prostyle temple featuring a portico and colonnades, and a peripteral temple with a magnificent double colonnade consecrated to Helios, the sun god. Perhaps the most remarkable sight to see in Qanawat is Es-Serai, a monument that dates back to around the 2nd century AD. The monument was originally a temple but was converted into a Christian basilica in the 4th and 5th centuries. Es-Serai is around 72 feet long and had an atrium with 18 columns and an outside portico. Qanawat also has other temples dedicated to the god of water and to Athena Al Lat, which date back to the 3rd and 2nd centuries respectively. Apart from these monuments mentioned above, the city also features several Roman and Byzantine tombs as well as public baths.