Please remember that
despite all modern facilities Syria is a country marked by tradition and
social manners. You may find some procedures incomprehensible, which
should not make you angry. You can't always expect answers to any
questions. Syrians like to ask you about your living conditions,
communication is a crucial element; by accepting this, you will learn a
lot about land and people. Take your time, patience is one of the main
virtues in the East. The same applies to hospitality, invitations for
tea or coffee can readily be accepted. Signs of tenderness between man
and woman in public are considered immoral. It can occur that a
traditional Muslim doesn't hold out his/her hand to a person of the
opposite sex, which means no disparagement; in lieu, salutation is made
by putting one's hand on one's heart. Useful hint: Pay attention to
domestic Syrian behaviour; so you will not drop a brick.
Knee-length suits or
dresses are an everyday occurrence. Also women wearing (tight or large)
trousers are a matter of course. Please avoid tight or transparent tops
or blouses and naked shoulders. Also miniskirts could lead to
misunderstandings. Syrian society strives to give any individual a
maximum of freedom. So you can often see women with a face veil along
with women wearing suits and without head-scarf. To visit a mosque,
women should take their own head-scarf or wear a dark jacket or
waistcoat. You can borrow different garment everywhere but it will not
always be perfectly clean. For visiting a mosque, we also suggest to
take along an extra pair of socks since shoes must be taken off. Men
should avoid (also in the hot season) wearing shorts; this inevitably
induces Arabs to burst out laughing as it is considered a sign of
immaturity. Many Arabs wear short-sleeved or T-shirts but under-shirts
cause extreme offence.
Please ask whether a person
likes to be photographed, and respect refusing answers. Taking
photographs of military sites, bridges, and public buildings is
The road network is
excellent. You can travel the country with a rented car by your own, it
is however recommendable to rent a car with a Syrian driver. Even basic
traffic rules are often not observed, guideposts to small curiosities
are often in Arabic language only. We dissuade you from cross-country
trips by night, the accident risk is very high (oncoming or unlit cars
are common on highways, too).
In the city, you should
preferably take a taxi. Pay attention that your driver activates the
taxameter or agree upon a customary price.
regularly run between the big cities. While buying your ticket, you must
commonly show your passport. In the countryside, there are microbuses
where you have to ask for departure times and destinations as there are
neither time-tables nor fixed stops.
Damascus – Homs – Tartus –
Lattakia – Aleppo trains are operated following a fixed time-table; Deir
ez-Zor and Qamischly are attached to the rail network. As the rail is
antiquated, trains cannot compete with coaches.
The two sea-ports Tartus
and Lattakia serve for transhipment of merchandise. During summer,
irregular ferry traffic to Cyprus.
The airports of Damascus
and Aleppo are operated by international airlines, Lattakia is at
disposal for charter flights, Syrian Air provides an air service to Deir
ez-Zor and Aleppo from/to Damascus.
BUSINESS-HOURS AND PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
Sunday - Thursday,
Saturday - Thursday
Shops and offices are
closed on Friday, except shops in Christian areas which are closed on
Sunday. National museums are closed on Tuesday.
1st of January: New Year's
Day, 8th of March: Revolution Day, 21st of March: Mother's Day, Easter,
17th of April: Independence Day, 1st of May: Labour's Day, 6th of May:
Martyrs' Day, 6th of October: October Liberation War, 25th of December:
The most important islamic
holidays are the small feast at the end of Ramadan, also named Eid
Al-Fitr, and the big feast Eid Al-Adha. During the eid
holidays, most offices and shops are closed. Due to the Islamic calendar
using lunar months, holidays move from year to year by some 14 days.
9th of December
The Syrian cuisine uses a
wide range of spices targeting taste, not spiciness. A main component of
any meal are the entrees, the so-called "Mezzeh“, beef, mutton, and
chicken (but no pork) or fish and vegetables then follow, the entree
dishes remaining on the table. The cuisine is well-tolerated by
Europeans and very tasty. In restaurants, sensitive persons should avoid
water provided in jugs, ice cubes or unpeeled fruits as cases of
diarrhoea can occur. Ask for mineral water in bottles. The Arabic coffee
enriched with cardamom is famous and boasts an incomparable taste. For
lovers of dainties, there is a plethora of sweets where you simply have
to taste them all. As regards alcohol, notice that alcohol is not
prohibited. Since centuries, Christian Syrians have pressed red and
white wines. Furthermore, anis spirits (Arrak) are distilled. Most shops
where alcoholic beverages are sold are the property of Christian
business-men (thus closed on Sunday). In restaurants, please ask whether
alcoholic beverages are available as in Syria any owner is free to sell
alcohol or not. Please control your alcohol consumption in order to
avoid offences since intoxication is an aggravating aspect in Syria.
In general, the Syrians are
a very co-operative race of men and you are not expected to pay for
favours. In the sector of services, tips are always welcome, which
normally amount to 10 % of the amount of bill in restaurants or taxis.
Please don't give children money or anything else; they should not get
used to begging.
Though temperatures in
winter are low, please don't underestimate the energy of the sun,
protect your head and your neck and don't forget sun-glasses and sun
protection. Besides the required personal documents (also a copy of your
passport, if necessary), you should be equipped with necessary
medicines, spare glasses, cleaning fluid for contact lenses or tampons
(only sanitary towels available).