ABOUT SYRIA

 

Syria, officially theSyrian Arab Republic is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West,Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.
The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.
The population of Syria is 76% Sunni Muslim, with a 13% Shia Muslim population, 8% Christian and 3% Druze. 
The modern Syrian state was established as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was tumultuous, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949–1970. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1962–2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered non-democratic.
 

Geography

Syria lies between latitudes 32° and 38° N, and longitudes 35° and 43° E. It consists mostly of arid plateau, although the northwest part of the country bordering the Mediterranean is fairly green. The Euphrates, Syria's most important river, crosses the country in the east. 
The climate in Syria is dry and hot, and winters are mild. Because of the country's elevation, snowfall does occasionally occur during winter. Petroleum in commercial quantities was first discovered in the northeast in 1956. Petroleum became Syria's leading natural resource and chief export after 1974. Natural gas was discovered in 1940. 
 

History

Since approximately 10,000 BC Syria was one of centers of Neolithic culture where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth. An Italian mission led by Prof. Paolo Matthiae discovered in 1975, a great Semitic empire spread from the Red Sea north to Turkey and east to Mesopotamia from 2500 to 2400 BC. 
 
Eventually the Persians took control of Syria as part of their general control of Southwest Asia; this control transferred to the Greeks after Alexander the Great's conquests and thence to the Romans and the Byzantines. In 83 BC Syria fell under the rule of Tigranes the Great; the King of Armenia. The Armenians maintained a rule of 13 years over Syria, which was finally turned into a Roman Province in 64 BC.
 
The Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, who was emperor from 222 to 235, was Syrian. His cousin Elagabalus, who was emperor from 218 to 222, was also Syrian and his family held hereditary rights to the high priesthood of the sun god El-Gabal at Emesa (modern Homs) in Syria. Another Roman emperor who was a Syrian was Philip the Arab (Marcus Julius Philippus), emperor from 244 to 249. 
 
Syria is significant in the history of Christianity; Saul of Tarsus was converted on the Road to Damascus, thereafter being known as the Apostle Paul, and emerged as a significant figure in the first organized Christian Church at Antioch in ancient Syria, from which he left on many of his missionary journeys.
 
By AD 640, Syria was conquered by the Rashidun army led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, resulting in the area's becoming part of the Islamic empire. In the mid-7th century, the Umayyad dynasty, then rulers of the empire, placed the capital of the empire in Damascus. Syria was divided into four districts: Damascus, Homs, Palestine and Jordan. Early Ummayad rulers such as Abd al-Malik and Al-Walid I constructed several splendid palaces and mosques throughout Syria.
 
In 1260, the Mongols arrived, led by Hulegu with an army 100,000 strong, destroying cities and irrigation works.  A few months later, the Mamluks arrived with an army from Egypt, and defeated the Mongols in the Battle of Ain Jalut, in Galilee. By the end of the 15th century, the discovery of a sea route from Europe to the Far East ended the need for an overland trade route through Syria. Shattered by the Mongols, Syria was easily absorbed into the Ottoman Empire from the 16th through 20th centuries.
 
The Syrian economy did not flourish under the Ottomans. At times attempts were made to rebuild the country, but on the whole Syria remained poor. The population decreased by nearly 30%, and hundreds of villages virtually disappeared into the desert. 
 
In 1920, an independent Arab Kingdom of Syria was established under Faisal I of the Hashemite family, who later became the King of Iraq. Although rapid economic development followed the declaration of independence, Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s were marked by upheaval. 
 

2011 Syrian Uprising‎

Protests in Syria started on 26 January and were influenced by other protests in the region; on the same day, one case of self-immolation was reported. Protesters have been calling for political reforms and the reinstatement of civil rights, as well as an end to the state of emergency which has been in place since 1963. One attempt at a "day of rage" was set for 4 – 5 February, though it ended up uneventful. 
 

Politics and Government

Syria is formally a republic. The Constitution of Syria was adopted 13 March 1971. It defines Syria as a secular socialist state withIslam recognised as the majority religion.
The executive branch consists of the president, two vice presidents, the prime minister, and the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The constitution requires the president to be a Muslim but does not make Islam the state religion.
 

Human rights

Syria's human rights situation is among the worst in the world, according to human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch. Freedom House ranked Syria "Not Free" in its annual Freedom in the World survey. 
 

Economy

Syria is a middle-income country, with an economy based on agriculture, oil, industry, and tourism. However, Syria's economy faces serious problems and challenges and impediments to growth, including: a large and poorly performing public sector; declining rates of oil production; widening non-oil deficit; wide scale corruption; weak financial and capital markets; and high rates of unemployment tied to a high population growth rate. 
Syria also produces 22 million cubic meters of gas per day, with estimated reserves around 8.5 trillion cubic feet (240 km3). While the government has begun to work with international energy companies in the hopes of eventually becoming a gas exporter, all gas currently produced is consumed domestically. 
 

Religion

Muslim 89% (Sunnis account for 74% of the population, while the remaining 15% are Shia – Alawite, Twelvers, and Ismailis combined), Druze 3%, Christian 8%.
 

Languages

Arabic is the official language and Syrian Arabic is most widely spoken. Kurdish  is widely spoken in the Kurdish regions of Syria. Many educated Syrians also speak English and French. 
 

Syrian cuisine

The Syrian cuisine is rich and varied in its ingredients and is linked to the region 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, yabra' (stuffed grape leaves, the word yapra' derıves 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 ba'lawa. Ba'lawa is made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and soaked in honey.