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Study in Syria - About Syria







General Information

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).

Area: 185,180 sq km (71,498 sq miles).

Population: 16,110,000 (1999).

Population Density: 87.0 per sq km (1999).

Capital: Damascus

Independence: 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 Caucus.

Map of Syria
Courtesy of Google Maps

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Language: Arabic is the official language; English and French are spoken as second languages.

Currency: Syrian Pound (Lira).
official exchange rate is 46 SP / 1 USD.
Bank notes: 1,5,10,25,50,100,200,500,1000.
Coins: 1,2 ,5,10, 25.

Religion: Over 80 per cent Muslim (mostly Sunni), with sizeable Christian (mostly Orthodox and Catholic) groups and Jewish minorities.

Time: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from 30 March to 30 September).

Electricity: 220 volts, 50 AC, European 2 pin.






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


The 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.


The 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 below freezing.

In the desert area, summer temperatures average 40°C, with frequent highs of around 46 °C. Rainfall is extremely low.


Syria 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 Desert.
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 activity.




The Syrian government is headed by President Bahsar al-Assad, leader of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party.

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.

Government Structure: 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

Head of State and Government: Prime Minister



Heritage and Culture

Heritage and Traditions

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.

Telephone: IDD 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

Mobile telephone: GSM 900/1800 network. Network operators include Syrian Telecommunications Establishment and Mobile Syria (website:

Fax: Available at post offices and major hotels.

Internet: Access to Internet services is available in universities and public offices. Syrian Telecommunication Establishments (website: is the main ISP.

Telegram: Service available from the main telegraph office in Damascus, most hotels and post offices.

Post: Airmail 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: and Voice of America (website: can be received. From time to time the frequencies change and the most up-to-date can be found online.

Radio broadcast stations: AM 9, FM 1, shortwave 0

Television broadcast stations: 17

Televisions: 700,000 (1993 est.)



Sources: Ministry of Information




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