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Syrian Arab Republic

الجمهورية العربية السورية
al-Jumhūriyyah al-‘Arabīyah as-Sūriyyah
Coat of arms of Syria
Coat of arms
Anthem: "Homat el Diyar"
"Guardians of the Land"
Capital Damascus
Largest city Aleppo
Official languages Arabic1
Demonym(s) Syrian
Government Ba'athist Single Party State
Bashar al-Assad
Legislature People's Council
• from France
17 April 1946
• from the United Arab Republic
28 September 1961
• Total
185,180 km2 (71,500 sq mi) (89th)
• Water (%)
• April 2016 estimate
18,090,242 (53rd)
• Density
118.3/km2 (306.4/sq mi) (101st)
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
• Total
$105.238 billion (65th)
• Per capita
US$5,043 (114th)
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
• Total
US$60.210 billion (66th)
• Per capita
US$2,958 (118th)
HDI (2011) Decrease 0.632
medium · 119th
Currency Syrian pound (SYP)
Time zone UTC+2 (EET)
• Summer (DST)
Driving side right
Calling code 9632
ISO 3166 code SY
Internet TLD .sy, سوريا.
  1. Arabic is the official language; spoken languages and varieties are: Syrian Arabic, North Mesopotamian Arabic, Kurmanji Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, Turkish
  2. 02 from Lebanon
Syria in its region (claimed)
A map of Syria

Syria is a country in the Middle East, the west part of Asia. It borders (from south to north) on Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey. Its western part faces the Mediterranean Sea. Its eastern and northern parts are mountainous.

The current president and head of state is Bashar al-Assad. Syria's national capital is Damascus. The biggest city is Aleppo. A Syrian civil war began in 2011.

The population of Syria is 74% Sunni, 12% Alawi, 10% Christian, and 3% Druze.


Amrit Phoenician Temple

Syria has a very long history. It was a land of Phoenicians. Later it became part of the Achaemenid Empire, Roman Empire and then the Eastern Roman Empire. In those days people spoke the Syriac language. The city Antioch was great and one of the important cities in Christendom. In the Arab Empire people began to speak the Arabic language. Today most Syrian people believe in Islam but there are still Christians too.

When World War I ended, France was given control over Lebanon and Syria. Britain was given power over Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. A border was drawn between Iraq and Syria in 1920. France controlled Syria until 1946. That year Syria became its own country.

Syria was part of the United Arab Republic with Egypt in 1958-1961. Syria had some wars with Israel and some territories like the Golan Plateau were occupied by Israel.

Report of the Commission Entrusted by the Council with the Study of the Frontier between Syria and Iraq Listen to this page
The line in the middle of this map is the border drawn in 1920 separating Iraq and Syria.

In 2012 with the Arab Spring a bloody civil war began against President Bashar al-Assad.


Syria lies between latitudes 32° and 38° N, and longitudes 35° and 43° E. The climate varies from the humid Mediterranean coast, through a semiarid steppe zone, to arid desert in the east. The country consists mostly of arid plateau, although the northwest part bordering the Mediterranean is fairly green. Al-Jazira in the northeast and Hawran in the south are important agricultural areas. The Euphrates, Syria's most important river, crosses the country in the east. Syria is one of the fifteen states that comprise the so-called "cradle of civilization". Its land straddles the "northwest of the Arabian plate".

Petroleum in commercial quantities was first discovered in the northeast in 1956. The most important oil fields are those of Suwaydiyah, Qaratshui, Rumayian, and Tayyem, near Dayr az–Zawr. The fields are a natural extension of the Iraqi fields of Mosul and Kirkuk. Petroleum became Syria's leading natural resource and chief export after 1974. Natural gas was discovered at the field of Jbessa in 1940.

Panoramic view of Ayn al-Bayda, Latakia, a village in Northern Syria

Politics and government

Syria is a republic. The old Constitution of Syria was started on 13 March 1971. It made Syria as a secular socialist state. Islam was the majority religion. A new constitution has been in place since 2012.

Branches of government

The executive branch is the president, two vice presidents, the prime minister, and the Council of Ministers. The constitution says the president must be a Muslim. It does not make Islam the state religion. According to the 2012 constitution, the president is elected by Syrian people in a direct election.

The People's Council is the legislative branch.

State control

Nearly all of Syria’s radio and television outlets are state owned. The Ba'ath Party controls nearly all newspapers.


Syria has fourteen Governorates, or muhafazat. The governorates are divided into sixty districts. The governorates are:

  • Al Hasakah
  • Al Ladhiqiyah
  • Al Qunaytirah
  • Ar Raqqah
  • As Suwayda
  • Dara
  • Dayr az Zawr
  • Dimashq
  • Halab
  • Hamah
  • Homs
  • Idlib
  • Rif Dimashq
  • Tartus


The President of Syria is commander in chief of the Syrian armed forces. There are about 400,000 troops. Males must go in the military when they are age 18.


Olive groves in Syria
Olive groves in Western-Syria, Homs Governorate.

Syria is a middle-income country. The economy is based on agriculture, oil, industry, and tourism.


Syria has three international airports (Damascus, Aleppo and Lattakia). They are hubs for Syrian Air. Foreign airlines also fly to them. Most Syrian cargo is carried by Chemins de Fer Syriens, the Syrian railway company.


Most people live in the Euphrates valley and along the coastal plain, a fertile strip between the coastal mountains and the desert.

Education is free from ages 6 to 12. All children this age must attend school.


The most popular sports in Syria are football, basketball, swimming, and tennis. Damascus was home to the fifth and seventh Pan Arab Games. Many popular football teams are based in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Latakia.


Fattoush, a Syrian bread salad

Syrian cuisine is rich and varied in its ingredients, linked to the regions of Syria where a specific dish has originated. Syrian food mostly consists of Southern Mediterranean, Greek, and Southwest Asian dishes. Some Syrian dishes also evolved from Turkish and French cooking: dishes like shish kebab, stuffed zucchini/courgette, and yabraʾ (stuffed grape leaves, the word yabraʾ deriving from the Turkish word yaprak, meaning leaf).

The main dishes that form Syrian cuisine are kibbeh, hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh, shawarma, mujaddara, shanklish, pastırma, sujuk and baklava. Baklava is made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and soaked in honey. Syrians often serve selections of appetizers, known as meze, before the main course. Za'atar, minced beef, and cheese manakish are popular hors d'œuvres. The Arabic flatbread khubz is always eaten together with meze.

Drinks in Syria vary, depending on the time of day and the occasion. Arabic coffee is the most well-known hot drink, usually prepared in the morning at breakfast or in the evening. It is usually served for guests or after food. Arak, an alcoholic drink, is a well-known beverage, served mostly on special occasions. Other Syrian beverages include ayran, jallab, white coffee, and a locally manufactured beer called Al Shark.

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