27 interesting facts about Syria

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The most interesting facts about Syria, from one of the oldest civilisations on Earth to one of the world’s most dangerous countries.

Interesting facts about Syria include its ancient history (Shutterstock)
Interesting facts about Syria include its ancient history (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Syrian Arab Republic
Population: 20,384,316
Area: 187,437 sq km
Capital city: Damascus
Major languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, French, English
Major religions: Muslim 87%, Christian 10%, Druze 3%
Time zone: UTC+2 (Eastern European Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Syria

1. Syria is a country in the Middle East bordering Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea.
– Source: Britannica

2. Syria is home to one of the oldest civilisations in the world. Human remains have been found in the region dating back to around 700,000 years ago.
– Source: History Channel

3. The name Syria comes from Assyria, an ancient kingdom in northern Mesopotamia at the centre of one of the great empires of the ancient Middle East. It was located in modern-day northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book, Britannica

A map of Syria
Several interesting facts about Syria are linked to its location (Shutterstock)

4. During ancient times, Syria was occupied and ruled by several empires including the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Mitanni, Assyrians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Amorites, Persians, Greeks and Romans.
– Source: History Channel

5. For over 400 years (1516-1918), Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire.
– Source: Britannica

6. Syria is home to the oldest library in the world. In 1974, the ancient city of Ebla was discovered along with around 1,800 clay tablets dating from around 3,000 BC.
– Source: Wellisch, H. (1981). Ebla: The World’s Oldest Library. The Journal of Library History (1974-1987), 16(3), 488-500.

The ruins of Ebla in Syria
The ruins of Ebla (Shutterstock)

7. The ancient language of Aramaic is still spoken in Syria. During ancient times, Aramaic was the lingua franca across many civilisations including Greece and Egypt. Today it is only spoken in small communities in Syria, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, and Georgia.
– Source: The Atlantic

8. In 2001, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to enter a mosque when he visited the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.
– Source: The Washington Post

9. The Umayyad Mosque (or Great Mosque of Damascus) is the earliest surviving stone mosque. Built between 705 and 715, it is often considered to be Islam’s fourth holiest place of worship.
– Source: Britannica, The New York Review of Books

The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus
The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus (Shutterstock)

10. Since 2011, Syria has been embroiled in a bitter civil conflict initially sparked by the Arab Spring. It has since turned into a complex war that has seen at least 400,000 Syrians lose their lives and displaced 5.6 million refugees.
– Source: Nature Journal

11. As such, Syria has the lowest net migration in the world with a negative (-) 5,386,986 when measured by net total of migrants during a five-year period.
– Source: World Bank

12. Syria is among the nine most dangerous countries in the world according to the 2021 International SOS Travel Risk Map. It has been assessed as carrying an ‘extreme travel security risk’.
– Source: The Independent

A war-damaged building
Syria has suffered from years of civil war (Shutterstock)

13. Syria was officially under a state of emergency for 48 years. The emergency law was finally lifted in 2011 following protests after it was first introduced in 1962.
– Source: BBC News

14. Since independence, Syria has struggled with stability with several conflicts with neighbouring countries. Israel continues to occupy an area of the Golan Heights following the 1967 Six Day War.
– Source: BBC News

15. Shouting Valley (or Shouting Hill) is a valley in Syria where the village of Ein al-Teinia is isolated from the town of Majdal al-Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. It is known as Shouting Valley as families used loudhailers to communicate with their estranged relatives across the landmined and fenced off gap. Recently, mobile phones and the internet have meant they no longer need to shout but people remain separated from their families.
– Source: The Guardian

A security fence in the Israeli-occupied area
A security fence in the Israeli-occupied area (Shutterstock)

16. According to the UK Foreign Office, Syria is one of 17 countries deemed to be entirely unsafe for tourists to visit.
– Source: The Telegraph

17. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, Syria was governed by France until it gained independence in 1946 following the Second World War.
– Source: BBC News

18. From 1958 to 1961, Syria was part of the short-lived union of Syria and Egypt known as the United Arab Republic.
– Source: BBC News

19. Syria’s flag is red, white and black horizontally striped with two green stars on the white stripe. The flag is the same as the former flag of the United Arab Republic (1958-1961) where the two stars represented the states of Syria and Egypt. The colours symbolise oppression (black), revolution (red), and a bright future (white).
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Syria's flag
Syria’s flag (Shutterstock)

20. Syria is among the world’s heaviest smoking nations. The average Syrian smokes 2,291 cigarettes a year according to data from the latest edition of the Tobacco Atlas.
– Source: Tobacco Atlas

21. However, Syrians are some of the lightest drinkers in the world. They are the ninth-lightest drinkers with the average Syrian consuming just 0.3 litres of alcohol per year.
– Source: World Bank

22. Syria’s UNESCO-listed capital, Damascus, is considered to be one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. Founded around the 3rd millennium BC, Damascus is also mentioned in the Bible’s book of Genesis.
– Source: UNESCO, The Guardian

Damascus
The capital Damascus (Shutterstock)

23. In total, Syria has six UNESCO sites including the ancient cities of Aleppo, Bosra, Damascus and Palmyra, the ancient villages of Northern Syria, and the crusader castles of Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din.
– Source: UNESCO

24. During the Middle Ages, Aleppo was a major trading post along the Silk Road, the ancient network of trade routes that connected China with the West.
– Source: UNESCO

25. Known as the ‘Venice of the sands’, the ancient Roman city of Palmyra saw many of its statues, temples and sites destroyed in 2015 when the militant group, Isis, seized control of the area.
– Source: The Guardian

The ancient Roman city of Palmyra before the war
The ancient Roman city of Palmyra before the war (Shutterstock)

26. Syria is one of the worst countries for gender equality. In the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, Syria was ranked the fourth worst country for gender equality.
– Source: Global Gender Gap Report 2020, World Economic Forum

27. Since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, satellite imagery has revealed that Syria has got 83% darker at night. The lack of lighting is caused by people fleeing the country and leaving behind darkened homes as well as destroyed buildings and power infrastructure which has left huge areas without electricity.
– Source: Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)


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