Region: Middle East & North Africa
An estimated 87% of the population adheres to some form of Islam. About 13-15% of Moslems are Alawis; less than 1% are Shia and the remainder are Sunni. About 10% of population observes some form of Christianity, and about 3% are Druze.
Arabic is the official language.
Area (sq. km):
185,180 square meters
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from April to October).
Along the West of the coastal mountain range Syria's climate is very Mediterranean, however there is a long dry season from May to October. Summer rain is very scarce, although it appears occasionally in the extreme Northwest. On the coast summers are hot and very humid, with an average daily maximum of 29°C, while the mild winters have an average daily minimum of 10°C. Further inland as you approach the steppe and the Syrian Desert the climate gradually becomes more arid, with colder and more extreme winters and hotter, drier summers. At Aleppo, in the northwest, the average August temperature is about 30°C, and the average January temperature is about 4°C, and Damascus is very similar. Snow may occur in winter away from the coast, and frosts are common. In the desert regions of Palmyra, in the central region at the edge of the Syrian Desert, the corresponding temperatures are about 30° C and about 6°C.
Syria's climate sits somewhere between ‘desert’ and ‘European’. West of the coastal mountain range the weather is very Mediterranean, with a long dry season from May to October. The most popular period for travel is from mid-March to October. In the height of summer (July/August) temperatures reach around 30°C in Aleppo, with similar temperatures in Damascus. From November to February conditions in Damascus and Aleppo are quite wintry, with temperatures around 5-8°C. In the desert regions of Palmyra, summers peak at around 32° C, with winters a little warmer than Damascus.
The major international airport is in Damascus, 25 kilometres from the city centre and 40 minutes by car.
Country code: 963. A full IDD service is available from major cities (Damascus, Aleppo). The outgoing international code is 00. Mobile phones work in most tourist areas except around Palmyra. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange 'global roaming' with your service provider, however charges are generally high so be sure to check this option thoroughly.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are the two-pin type. Some lamp fittings are screw rather than bayonet.
Syrian food is very good - some of the best in the region. As with other countries in the area, you'll find a wide variety of 'mezze', along with chicken dishes, shawarma and other middle-eastern dishes. The popular national food is bulgar; it is made from wheat that has been boiled, dried, and crushed (rather like semolina), and is used in many dishes. Fruit is also abundant, with oranges, grapefruit, pears, apricots, figs, olives, plums, greengages, grapes, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, and fresh or dried almonds all available. Most Syrians do not drink alcohol and the majority of restaurants only serve soft drinks. Fruit juices are excellent. Beer and wine is available in some tourist hotels.
Souks (or markets) are the best place to purchase souvenirs in Syria. Both Aleppo and Damascus have many stalls which sell local handicrafts such as mother-of-pearl items, wood carvings, embroidered products, leather goods and gold and silver jewellery.
Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, British and Canadians require a visa for Syria. All other nationalities should check with the Syrian Embassy or Consulate in their country for up-to-date visa information. You should arrange visas prior to arrival in Syria. It is possible in an emergency to obtain one on arrival at the land borders however it can be a problematic and time-consuming procedure and we do not recommend this.
Any evidence in your passport of any visits to Israel including Jordanian entry/departure stamps from the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge border will exclude you from entry to Syria.
Last Act in Palmyra-Lindsey Davis From Beirut to Jerusalem-Thomas L Friedman Desert Queen-Janet Wallace