Rising steeply to the northwest of Damascus is Mount Kassioun (1200 m), a bare, dry ridge of mountain which dominates the city on this side and provides a useful point of orientation. The mountain has a number of legends attached to it. A mosque built over a cave on the eastern slopes of the mountain, near the town of Barzeh (on the road to Saidnaya) is believed to mark the birthplace of Abraham. Most famously, it was from the summit of Mount Kassioun that Muhammad is said to have looked down on Damascus, not daring to enter this oasis of gardens and streams lest its earthly delights distracted him from his quest for heavenly paradise.
There are several good vantage points on its lower slopes that can be reached via the narrow lanes leading off to the north from Madares Assad ud-Din Street in Salihiye district. But the best views out over Damascus are from the top, reached via a road which hairpins its way up the mountain. In summer there are various cafés and stalls close to the summit where tourists and Damascenes alike come to enjoy the cooler air and take in the panorama of the city spread out below: today a sprawling urban mass which is a far cry from the paradise of greenery said to have so impressed Muhammad, but nevertheless an impressive sight. The best times to come up here are late afternoon for sunset over the city, and at night when it is lit up in all its glory.