An Incomparable In History
Syria is the cradle of the great civilizations, and the accomplishments of her ancient peoples are renowned throughout the world.
It was here that agriculture began ten thousand years ago, that settlement commenced
Syria also presented the world with another discovery. It was here that copper was made pliable and bronze was invented. The bronze civilization came into being at Tel Halaf.
At Mari (Tel Hariri), by the Euphrates and elsewhere, there was an abundance of palaces, temples and murals reflecting advanced cultural and commercial activity.
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The kingdom of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) offered mankind the first alphabet in history. At Ebla (Tel Merdikh), a royal palace was discovered containing one of the largest and most comprehensive documentary archives of the ancient world. These specialized in industrial, diplomatic, commercial and administrative matters, in addition to war and peace relations with other countries. The Amorites, the Canaanites and the Phoenicians inhabited the coastal region, the Arameans were the highlanders, and the Nabateans inhabited the south.
Successive waves of migrations from the Arab Peninsula gave an Arab identity to Syria, and it managed to withstand the invasions by Hittites, Persians, Greek and Romans. The Islamic conquest of 636 A. D. only confirmed this Arab identity and gave a sense of unity to the land.
The immense strategic importance of Syria is due to her unique position as a meeting-point of three continents (Asia, Africa and Europe), and as a crossroad between the Caspian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Black Sea, and the Nile River. Through Syria lay the silk road which led from China to Doura Europeos (Salhieh), from Palmyra and Homs to the Syrian ports on the Mediterranean, where for thousands of the years Syrian seafarers had ridden the waves in their enormous fleets with gleaming white sails.
This geographical position lent distinction to the country, not only as a trade and caravan route, but also as a melting pot of diverse ideas, beliefs, talents, and cultures.
A journey through Syria is a journey through the time. When you enter the old souks you realize that history is something alive and tangible, something you can see and touch. You walk down the street called (Midhat Pasha) which stretch from Bab Keissan to Bab al-Jabieh, and you feel that you are walking beside Saul of Tarsus when he saw the light of faith, the light ‘on the Road to Damascus’ the silk weavers which you see in Damascus, Hama and Aleppo still work at their wooden hand looms just like their ancestors did in Ebla four thousand years ago. Glass blowers at their brick furnaces recall their predecessors who invented colored glass three thousand years ago. Folk artists still draw pictures of epic heroes almost identical to those engraved on stone by Doura Europos artists in the year 3000 B.C.
Syria is often described as the largest small country in the world because of its wealth of ancient civilizations. Modern man is indebted to this land for much of his thought and learning. Indeed it was aptly said that every intellectual has two homelands: his own, and Syria.
How to travel to Syria
By land: Syria is linked with other countries by a network of international roads through Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. An international railroad links the country with Turkey and the rest of Europe.
By Sea: Through the two seaports of Lattakia and Tartus on the Mediterranean.
By Air: Syrian Arab Airlines (the international airline) and a number of world airlines link Syria through the international airport Damascus and Aleppo to all parts of the world.
Traveler to Syria can obtain all other relevant information from Syria Embassies and tourist bureaus aboard.
Accommodation in Syria
More than 400 hotels provide a considerable choice with regard to costs. There are international Hotels in Damascus, Palmyra, Aleppo, Homs and Deir Ezzor. Several youth hostels and student dormitories are available during the summer season in Damascus, Aleppo, and Lattakia.
Camping sites are also available on the outskirts of some cities and at summer resorts,
In the coastal region there are numerous camping sites with full facilities, as well as hundreds of chalets of various categories and prices.
Visitors to Syria will always find something to their liking. Syrian cuisine is well known for its variety. Western cuisine is also available at hotels and restaurants throughout the country.
Drinking water in Syria is perfectly safe, clean and hygienic. It is derived from natural ground and mountain springs and sources and is treated with the most advanced techniques. Most notables are the Ein al-Fijeh source, which supplies the city of Damascus with its drinking water Other mineral water sources are renowned for their purity. Among these are the Boukein and Dreikish spring water sources available in bottles throughout the country.
Other Essential Information
Office hour’s duty between 8 A.M and 2 P.M Friday is the weekly holiday.
There are no endemic or communicable diseases in Syria.
Urban crime that plagues most modern cities is virtually non-existent in Syria.
Electric power 220 volt/50 cycles.
Shops are often all day until 7 P.M in winter and 8 P.M in summer some shops close for a few hours in the afternoon.
The basic unit of Syrian currency is the piastre; it is 1/100th of lira on which the money system is based. Banknote denominations are as follows in lira: 1; 5; 10; 25; 50; 100; and 500 and coins 5; 10; and 25.
Weights and measures
Weight and measure in Syria follow the Metric system.
Transport and Travel
Several companies organize inter-city travel in modern air-conditioned coaches. Service taxis and trains run regularly between cities and there are internal flights by Syrian Air between Damascus, Aleppo, Lattakia, Qamishli and Deir ezzor.
In town transport is made easy by taxicabs. Yellow cabs in Damascus charge fares indicated by meters; in other cities fares are set by government departments.
Direct Telephone Services
Is available between Syrian cities and the rest of the world. Visitors can readily obtain information on internal and international calls from hotels or from the Telephone service.
Telex, Telegram and fax services are also available in all parts of the country.
Syria has a moderate Mediterranean climate, four distinct seasons, and cloudless blue skies for the greater part of the year. Temperatures in autumn and spring range between 20 and 25 degrees centigrade, 30 degrees in summer, and 5 to 15 degrees in winter.
Winter is generally moderate but wet in the coastal region and cold inland; summer is hot and dry inland, hot and humid on the coast.
Winter clothing is recommended between October and May, and summer clothing between May and September.
A considerable number of Syrians speak English or French. Those who speak only Arabic are helpful and hospitable and always friendly to foreigners.
Shopping in Syria an endless pleasure. Tourists enjoy buying local products unique for their distinctive originality. Favorite items with visitors are:
Silk brocade embroidered with glad and silver thread, for which Damascus has always been famous.
Hand-engraved brass with silver inlays of different patterns and designs.
Popular hand-printed cotton garments and cloth, and the ‘Sarma’ gold embroidery for which Hama is renowned.
Picture of epic and folk heroes painted on glass or cloth.
Mosaics inlaid with mother-of-pearl and tinted wood.
Hand-woven rugs made of pure wool.
Glass made as you-wait-and-watch; this is the work of glass blowers using mud furnaces where liquid glass is turned into pretty beakers, plates, and lamps.
Delicious sweet filled with pistachios. Preserved fruit, and Turkish Delight.
Artistic and cultural
Artistic and cultural events abound throughout the year. Exhibitions, lectures, and seminars are held at universities, museums, and cultural center. Painting and sculpture by local and foreign artists are exhibited in private galleries throughout the country.
Radio and Television
Programs on radio are mainly in Arabic but there are foreign programs. As for television, there are two channels one in Arabic and the other in English and French in spite of the satellite-broadcasting channel. Also in addition to the Arabic press, there is a local daily in English.
Until the end of the World War I, geographical Syria included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
Present-day Syria, however, covers some 185000sq. Km. With a population of 12 million people (1986 estimate). Its neighbors are Turkey to the north, Jordan and Palestine to the south, Lebanon to the west, and Iraq to the east. It also has a Mediterranean coastline to the west. It is triangular in shape east of the Mediterranean, and extends between latitudes 32 to 37 north and longitudes 25 to 42 east of Greenwich.
Syria can be divided into five distinct tourist regions with varying features and terrain:
In the west there is a coastline 175 Km long, and mountains divided into two ranges standing opposite each other:
The eastern range, stretching along the Syria-Lebanon border and called Eastern mount Lebanon, wherein mount Hermon constitutes the highest peak rising to some 2814 meters and capped with snow all year.
The western range, called Western Mount Lebanon, extends to the northern part of the Syrian coastline where it is known as the Lattakia Mountain, and is covered with thickets and forests.
The Orontes River flows between these two ranges and creates a fertile valley extending north to Homs, Hama, and the Aleppo plains.
The central part of Syria is covered by what is known as the al-Sham desert, where plains and pasturelands lend an unusual charm to a vast terrain of sand and rock. In the middle of this lies the famous oasis of Palmyra.
North of the desert there is a huge fertile basin formed by the Euphrates River, whose source is in the northeast to exit into Iraqi territory, having been fed by two tributaries in Syria, namely the Khabur and Balikh rivers. On the Syrian part of the river rises a great dam that forms the 80Km-long al Assad Lake.
In this part of the basin there are several mountains, and some newly discovered oil fields.
In the southwest the Ghuta forms which surround the capital, Damascus, full of fruit trees. Through this region runs the river Barada, which the Romans called ‘The Golden River’. Its spring is in Zabadani, a summer resort near Damascus. The river flows through miles of meadows and orchards, then branches into seven small rivers before reaching Damascus.
In the south, Jabal al-Arab forms the greater part of the region with its hills, volcanic rocks, historic cities, and rich vineyards. The vast plain of Houran and the Golan Heights form the remainder of this region, and have long been the most fertile part of it along the borders with Lebanon and Palestine.
A Land Of Diversity
Ancient irrigation canals and modern dams, the plough and tractor, wooden noirs in perpetual motion and the latest spraying devices are to be found side by side giving life to the dry and thirsty land.
The costumes of country people are no less colorful and diverse than the lands they cultivate. The individual character of each village is reflects in the architecture of its houses, and in the dress of its inhabitants.
The art festivals held at Palmyra and Bosra yearly show how the symmetry of the ancient columns and arches blends with the music from all over the world.
Travelling in Syria
Where you can see several civilizations. As when browsing in the Damascus souq near the Umayyad Mosque. The mosque is an impressive Islamic construction erected on the remains of an ancient Aramic temple. Just outside it there is an enormous Roman arch on huge columns, and close by are Byzantine engravings surrounded by Ottoman, Ayoubite and Mamluk domes.
As you leave urban areas behind to wander about the countryside with its mountains, hills, valleys and plains, you will find an endless variety of color and scenery.
An hour’s drive will take you from fields of wheat and cotton to vineyards and olive trees, to pomegranate and palm-tree oases, to daisy and oleander meadows. On the seashore to the north you can watch the Mediterranean’s white waves, while in the golden desert you will see a deluge of wild flowers in spring.
Syria is divided into 14 provinces, each one with a main city as its center.
These provinces can be divided into three areas:
The Southern Provinces: the city , the Damascus Province, Sweida, Dara’a, and Quneitra.
The Mid-Western Provinces: Homs, Hama, Tartus, Lattakia, and Idleb.
The North-Eastern Provinces: Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and al-Hasakeh