Syria can be divided geographically
into four main areas: the fertile plain in the
northeast; the plateau, coastal and mountain areas
in the west; the central plains; and the desert
and steppe region in the central and southeastern
areas. The Euphrates flows from Turkey in the
north, through Syria, down to Iraq in the southeast.
The capital of Syria is the world's
oldest inhabited city. A central feature of this
cluttered and clamorous city is the Ummayyad Mosque.
The 18th-century Al-Azem palace is now a national
museum, featuring beautifully illuminated copies
of the Koran. Homs is a large city known for its
industry. Of historical interest is the mausoleum
of Khalid Ibn al-Walid. Located 65km (40 miles)
outside Homs, Crac des Chevaliers is the most
famous crusader castle in the world. Rising from
an altitude of 670m (2200ft), its watch-towers
once afforded protection. Latakia, Syria's principal
Mediterranean coastal port is a major holiday
resort. National dishes include kubbeh (minced
semolina and meat formed in balls and stuffed
with minced meat, onion and nuts) and yabrak (vine
leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat).
sq km (71,498 sq miles).
Population Density: 87.0 per
sq km (1999).
17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate
under French administration).
Ethnicity/Race: Most of the population (90%) is Arab. Minorities
include the Kurds (mostly in the northern farm
regions) and Armenians (in the Northern cities).
There are also communities of Palestinians in
Damascus and a community of Tcherkas from the
Syria is bordered on the north by Turkey, on
the east by Iraq, on the south by Jordan and on
the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean.
Syria is bounded on the north by Turkey, on the
east by Iraq, on the south by Jordan and Palestine,
and on the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean
Sea. The lanSyria has an area of 185,180 sq km
(71,498 sq mi). The capital and largest city is
Damascus, also spelled Dimashq
Syrian Arab Republic is located in the Middle
East at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
It is bordered by Turkey to the north, Iraq to
the east and south-east, Jordan to the south,
and Lebanon to the south-east. The capital of
Syria is Damascus; other large cities are Aleppo, Lattakia,
Homs, and Deir Ez-Zor.
Syria covers an area more than 185,000 square
kilometers; its terrain, climate and vegetation
are diverse. Mountains dominate the western and
south-western regions and separate the narrow
coastal plain form the interior. The highest mountain
range straddles the boundary with Lebanon and
is high enough to get heavy snow in winter; most
of the remainder of Syria to the east of these
mountains is a plateau.
most hospitable and pleasant climate in Syria
is to be found near the coast. Here, Mediterranean
conditions give hot, dry summers and mild, wet
winters, with average daily temperatures of 29°C
in summer and 10°C in winter. Annual rainfall
along the coast ranges from 750 to 1,000mm (30
to 40 inches).
Moving inland from the coast, Syria's climate
becomes increasingly drier and less welcoming.
Temperatures in the plateau region average around
35°C in summer and 12°C in winter and
annual rainfall varies from 250mm to 500mm (10
to 20 inches). Winters in the northern interior
can be cold, with temperatures often falling to
In the desert area, summer temperatures average
40°C, with frequent highs of around 46 °C.
Rainfall is extremely low.
has four main geographical regions. A narrow,
fertile coastal plain, about 20 miles in width
runs down the western side of the country. Parallel
to this is narrow mountain range, known as Jebel
an-Nusayriyah and south of these are the Anti-Lebanon
Mountains, a much higher range which forms a border
between Syria and the neighbouring Lebanon. This
range of mountains dwindles off into a hilly area
in the southwest, known as the Golan Heights (captured
by Israel in 1967).
Much of the rest of the country is a plateau bisected
by the valley of the Euphrates (al-Furat) River,
which flows diagonally from Turkey in the north
to Iraq in the east. This plateau contains most
of Syria's major towns and cities.
The Orontes is Syria's second longest river. This
has its source in the Lebanon and flows from the
Anti-Lebanese mountains, across western Syria
to Turkey in the north.
In the southeastern corner is the stony Syrian
Syria's fertile regions are mostly in the north,
in the river valleys and along the coastal strip.
Forest regions, containing pine and oak were once
vast, but have been dramatically depleted by human
The Syrian government is headed by President
Bahsar al-Assad, leader of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist
The President has the power to appoint ministers
of his own choice, which form the executive branch
of the government. The legislative branch of the
government is made up of the People's Council.
Civil servants and military personnel are also
appointed by the president and it is within his
power to issue laws and declare war.
The national constitution specifies that the head
of state must be a Muslim.
Syria is divided into 14 governorates known as
muhafazat and these in turn are subdivided into
smaller, local sections.
Once considered a hard-line Arab country, Syria
in the post-Gulf War period is slowly changing
and its relations with the West are now on a much
more friendly footing than in the recent past.
Governmental system based on Permanent
Constitution of March 13, 1973. Theoretically,
power divided into executive, legislative, and
judicial spheres, but all institutions overshadowed
by preeminence of president (reelected February
10, 1985, in national referendum for seven-year
term), who was head of state, chief executive,
and secretary of ruling Baath (Arab Socialist
Resurrection) Party. People's Council, 195- member
parliament, popularly elected in 1986 for term
of four years. Judiciary based on amalgam of Ottoman,
French, and Islamic laws and practices. Some legal
rights abrogated under state of martial law, in
effect since 1963.
Government: republic under military
regime since March 1963
You're unlikely to hear traditional Arab tunes
on the streets of Damascus, but you will find
an interesting hybrid of Arab-style singers backed
up by orchestras of western and traditional instruments
everywhere you go. Some of the favourite artists
are Mayada al-Hanawi and Asala Nasri. The Bedouin
are still hanging on to their musical traditions,
with groups of men singing trance-like chants
to accompany a lone belly dancer.
Visual art in the Arab world often means architecture,
largely because Islam forbids the depiction of
living things. Throughout Syria you will find
some spectacular ancient and classical sites,
with relics left by the Muslim caliphs, the Romans
and the Byzantines. There are also plenty of religious
works left behind by the Crusaders. The Qur'an
is one of the finest examples of classical Arabic
writing; the Al-Mu'allaqaat is an even older collection
of Arab poetry. Toward the end of the 10th century,
Syria was the focal point of one last great flash
of Arab poetry - the most notable works of this
era were penned by Al-Mutanabbi (who considered
himself a prophet) and Abu Firas al-Hamdani. One
of the best known works of Arab literature is
Alf Layla wa Layla (A Thousand and One Nights),
a collection of tales from several centuries and
countries. Bedouin artworks include silver jewellery,
colourful textiles and a wide range of knives.
Hospitality is a cornerstone of Arab life. It
is commonplace for Syrian families, particularly
desert dwellers, to welcome strangers into their
home. The tradition developed from the harshness
of desert life - without food, water and shelter
provided by strangers, most desert travellers
would die. Wherever you go in Syria, you are likely
to hear the word, tafaddal (loosely translated
as welcome) and you will frequently be invited
into people's homes for food or a cup of tea.
Syria ... The Wonder of History - Video
An Informative and Beautiful Video About Syria(In English)
What does Syria mean? Here is the answer!
Islam is the predominant religion in Syria. A
monotheistic religion, Islam's holy book is the
Qur'an, and Friday is its sabbath day. Every day,
five times a day, Muslims are called to prayer
from the minarets of mosques that dot the country.
Islam derives from the same monotheistic roots
as Judaism and Christianity, and Muslims generally
regard Christians and Jews with respect - in Islam,
Jesus is regarded as one of the Prophets of Allah,
and Jews and Christians are considered fellow
'people of the Book'. Mohammed was the last Prophet,
and it was to him that Allah dictated the Qur'an.
Most Syrian Muslims belong to the Sunni sect of
Islam, but there are sizeable Shi'ite, Druze and
Alawite minorities. The Druze mostly live around
the border with Jordan, and their beliefs are
shrouded in secrecy. The Alawites, mostly found
around Lattakia and Hama-Homs, are extreme Shi'ites.
Islamic law forbids eating pork and drinking
alcohol, and this law is followed to a greater
or lesser (generally lesser) extent throughout
Syria. Islam also has a tendency to divide the
sexes, and you might find that many eating establishments
only welcome men. Most of these will, if asked,
show you to the 'family room', an area set aside
for women. When Syrians eat out, they will usually
order group meals - a selection of mezzeh, or
starters, followed by main meals to share. Arabic
unleavened bread, or khobz, is eaten with almost
everything. The other staples are felafel, deep-fried
chickpea balls; shwarma, spit-cooked sliced lamb;
and fuul, a paste of fava beans, garlic and lemon.
Mensaf is a Bedouin speciality - a whole lamb,
head included, on a bed of rice and pine nuts.
Communications in Syria are developing rapidly.
As mentioned earlier, it's easy to call abroad
from the phone booths in the streets. Regarding
e-mail, Damascus is full of Internet cafes, and
more are appearing weekly. Fortunately, cafe owners
have realized that foreign students are good business.
They've opened Internet cafes across the street
from the IFEAD and the French Cultural Center,
and throughout Shaalaan and Bab Touma. Hotmail
and Yahoo are technically illegal in Syria, but
most cafes use "secret" servers (or
Lebanese servers) to bypass such details. It's
100-120 SP an hour for computer use, and most
places also have printers and up-to-date Microsoft
software should you need to do some work.
is available. Country code: 963. Outgoing international
code: 00. 541,465 (1992 est.)
Telephone system: fair system
currently undergoing significant improvement and
digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology
GSM 900/1800 network. Network operators include
Syrian Telecommunications Establishment and Mobile
Syria (website: www.syriatel.com).
at post offices and major hotels.
to Internet services is available in universities
and public offices. Syrian Telecommunication Establishments
is the main ISP.
available from the main telegraph office in Damascus,
most hotels and post offices.
to Western Europe takes up to ten days. Parcels
sent from Syria should be packed at the post office.
There are post offices in virtually all towns.
Post office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1500; larger branches
will be open all day.
Press: The Syria
Times is published daily in English. All other
newspapers are in Arabic (the most important ones
being Al-Baath, Tishrin and Ath-Thawra). International
papers are also widely available.
Radio Stations: BBC
World Service (website: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice)
and Voice of America (website: www.voa.gov)
can be received. From time to time the frequencies
change and the most up-to-date can be found online.