Social manners

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CUSTOMS AND BEHAVIOUR:

 

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.

 

CLOTHING:

 

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.

 

TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS:

 

Please ask whether a person likes to be photographed, and respect refusing answers. Taking photographs of military sites, bridges, and public buildings is absolutely forbidden.

 

TRAFFIC

 

By land:

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).

 

Public transports:

In the city, you should preferably take a taxi. Pay attention that your driver activates the taxameter or agree upon a customary price.

Comfortable coaches 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.

 

By sea:

The two sea-ports Tartus and Lattakia serve for transhipment of merchandise. During summer, irregular ferry traffic to Cyprus.

 

By plane:

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

 

Office-hours:

 

Sunday - Thursday, 08:00-14:30

 

Shops:

 

Saturday - Thursday 10:00-20:30

Shops and offices are closed on Friday, except shops in Christian areas which are closed on Sunday. National museums are closed on Tuesday.

 

Public holidays:

 

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: X-mas.

 

Islamic holidays: 

 

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.

 

Year

Ramadan begins

Eid Al-Fitr

Eid Al-Adha

2008

1st of September

30th of September

9th of December

2009

22nd of August

22nd of September

25th of November

2010

11th of August

10th of September

17th of December

 

FOOD AND BEVERAGES

 

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.

 

TIPS:

 

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.

 

DIVERSE:

 

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).

 

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please contact:

 

editor@syrian-tourism.info