Landscape in the Syrian desert http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Syrian_Desert_(5079766124).jpg yeowatzup
Syria is a country of the Middle East in Western Asia. It covers 185,180 sq km (71,479 sq mi) and has a population of 22.5 million people. The capital of Syria is Damascus while its biggest city is Aleppo. Syria is bordered by Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Lebanon and Israel to the southwest.
Temple of Bel at the ruins of Palmyra, Syria http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Temple_of_Bel,_Palmyra_15.jpg Bernard Gagnon
Syria is in the Eastern European Time Zone, which is two hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+2) and three hours in summer. The official currency is the Syrian pound. The electricity here is 220V/50Hz using European plug. The phone IDD code is +963. Traffic is driven on the right here.
In 2010, Syria had an estimated nominal GDP of $60.21 billion, which works out to a per capita nominal GDP of $2,958. Its per capita GDP at purchasing power parity stood at $5,043. The official language of Syria is Arabic. 74% of the population are Sunni Muslim while other Muslim sects make up another 16% and Christians 10% of the population.
The history of Syria goes back thousands of years. In fact the city of Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Various peoples have occupied and invaded Syria over the millenia, among them the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Hittites. The city of Damascus featured in accounts from Biblical times and Roman times.
Islam was introduced to Syria in AD 640, when it was conquered by the Rashidun army and ruled by the Umayyad dynasty. As with many of the countries in Western Asia, Syria was added to the Ottoman Empire, where it remained from the 16th to the early 20th century. In 1920 Syria became an independent Arab kingdom for just a few months, before French troops invaded and occupied it. A number of revolts and declarations of independence were to pass before Syria was recognized as an independent state on 1 January, 1944.
Tilel, a shopping street in Aleppo http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Tilel_street,_Aleppo#mediaviewer/File:Aleppo_shopping_street.jpg Alexanyan
Save for brief periods, post-independence Syria was a state in constant turmoil. It has been under Emergency rule since 1962. The ruling elite comprises members of a minority group while the citizens live with their constitutional rights suspended.
Despite its official name, the Syrian Arab Republic, present-day Syria is not a democracy but rather a hereditary dictatorship. It has been ruled by Hafez al-Assad as president from 1971 until 2000, and by his son Bashar al-Assad since 2000. The regime of Hafez al-Assad has been singled out by human rights group as being one of the most repressive in the world.
Mud houses near Aleppo, Syria http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mud_houses,_Syria.jpg Bernard Gagnon
Planning your trip to Syria
Casual visitors are warned against making unnecessary visits to Syria. Unrests erupt in Syrian cities intermittently. Tourists and visitors are at constant risk of kidnapping and hostage taking. Until the situation improves, visitors should stay away from this country.
Visitors from Arab countries as well as Malaysia, Turkey and Iran do not need a visa for entering Syria.
Tetrapylon of Palmyra, Syria http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Palmyra_T%C3%A9trapylon_02.jpg Bernard Gagnon
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