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Overview of Syria

In the history of mankind, Syria plays a peerless role. It was often considered the cradle of civilization as some of the most important human achievements, which then conquered the whole world, had their origin in ancient Syria (which reached from the Taurus Mountains to the Sinai Peninsula, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates). In this country, man discovered the secrets of agriculture, and metallurgy and invented the first alphabet; religion, philosophy, language of commerce, urban development concepts, regulations for diplomatic and cultural exchange; all these things developed within the geographic boundaries of Syria. Thus it is rightly said that every cultivated man has two nationalities: his own and the Syrian.

 

Syrian Arab Republic

SITUATION:

 

Modern Syria is situated in the Near East on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The shore length amounts to 180 km. Syria borders Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the southwest, and Israel and the Lebanon to the west.  

 

CAPITAL:

 

Damascus

 

SURFACE:

 

185.180 km˛

 

INHABITANTS:

 

around 22 millions; annual growth rate 2,5%, almost 45% are less than 14 years old; at present, plus some 1.5 millions of refugees from Iraq; some 420,000 Palestinians registered by the United Nations aid organisation for Palestine refugees in the Middle East, UNRWA;

 

POPULATION:

 

Arabs, ethnic minorities: 6 % Kurdish people, 2 % Armenians and small ethnic groups such as Turkmen people and Chechens.

 

RELIGION:

 

Almost 90 % of Syrians profess the Islam, the majority are Sunni. Christians with a percentage of nearby 10 % belong to different confessions; about 4 % Druze and 1 % Ismaelites.

 

GEOGRAPHY:

 

Manifold and various landscapes: sea-coast, mountains, forests, hilly country, fertile valleys, plains, and prairie.

 

CLIMATE:

 

Agreeable and various Mediterranean climate with four distinct seasons. Mean temperatures: 32° C in summer, 10° C in winter, and 22° C in spring and fall. Mostly fresh nights, waistcoat or jacket recommended.

 

TIME:

 

Throughout the year: CET o 1 hour, but due to different dates of return to summer or winter time = CET for short periods.

 

CURRENCY:

 

The Syrian currency (Syrian Pound), in Arabic Lira, has the following coins: 5, 10, and 25 Lira. There are bank-notes of 25 (rather seldom), 50, 100, 500, and 1000 Lira. Official exchange rates are published in public exchange offices and in banks. 1 USD has at present a value of around 46 Lira, 1 € of  about 64 Lira.

 

TRAVELLER CHEQUES

 

can be exchanged to Syrian Pounds at any bank. Please submit your original bill of sale of your European bank to prove the legal purchase of your traveller cheques.

 

CREDIT CARDS

 

are accepted in hotels, shops, and  restaurants. The best way is of course payment in cash. 

 

ATMs

 

with international monetary intercourse in the capitals and at the airports, the disagio is however relatively high. Nevertheless, the ATMs are gaining ground.

Bills of international hotels and fly tickets purchased in Syria must be settled in USD.

 

POLITICAL STRUCTURE:

 

Syria is a republic whose president is approved by referendum for a 7-year term. He appoints the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (Council of Ministers). The Legislative Assembly (People's Council) comprises 250 deputies who are elected by direct, general elections for a 4-year term.

President Bashar Al-Assad, in office since 2000, has focused on liberalisation, market opening, and reform of administration. The five-year plan for 2006-2010 passed in May 2006 is a landmark of the beginning transformation of Syrian economy from planned to social free market economy. Important steps were already set: unification of the exchange rate, admission of private banks (2004) and insurances (2006), remarkable tariff cuts, reduction of corporate and revenue taxes, opening of almost all economic sectors for private domestic and foreign companies.

 

ECONOMY:

 

A third of the population is active in agriculture. Soils are very fertile but must be irrigated continuously. Main products are cotton, wheat, sugar-beets, and vegetables, as well as tobacco. In stock-farming there are sheep, goats, cattle, and poultry.

Most important export goods: natural gas, cotton, textiles, garment, agricultural products. In 2007, Syria's petrol production decreased to 370,000 barrels per day. Production in the existent petrol sources is constantly decreasing and petrol exports have shrunk since 2004 significantly.

Main import goods: machinery and equipment, metals and metallic products, cars, food, and chemicals. The member states of the European Union are Syria's most important trade partners.

In 2006, the GDP was around USD 29.3 billions. The official growth rate was 3.2%, the average per-capita GDP 2006: UDS 1,465.

 

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