Once the centre of the Islamic Empire, Syria covers an area that has seen invasions and occupations over the ages, from Romans and Mongols to Crusaders and Turks. A country of once fertile plains, high mountains and deserts, it is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups.
The Syrian Arab Republic (Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah) lies in the Middle East and its land boundaries total 2,253 kilometers (km) with the bordering nations of Iraq in the East (605 km), Israel¹ (76 km), and Jordan (375 km) in the South, Lebanon (375 km) and the Mediterranean Sea (193 km) in the West, and Turkey in the North (822 km). Damascus is the capital (population estimated at 5 million in 2004) and other large cities include Aleppo (4.5 million), Daara, Deir El Zor, Hama (1.6 million), Al Hasaka (1.3 million), Homs (or Hims, 1.8 million), Idlib (1.2 million), Latakia (1 million), Quneitra, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda and Tartus. The size of Syria is about 185,18o km2 with an estimated population of 22.2 million (2010).
Map of Syria (Fanack.com)
Territory disputed by Syria includes 1,295 square kilometers of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. A portion of the Golan Heights also is claimed by Lebanon. In addition, the Syrian government has never recognized the legality of Turkey’s possession of Hatay Province, which was the Syrian province of Iskenderun until France ceded it to Turkey in 1939. Diversion of water from the Euphrates River for dams is a continuing source of conflict between Syria and both Turkey and Iraq.
Public holidays observed in Syria include:
- New Year’s Day (January 1)
- Revolution Day (March 8)
- Evacuation Day (April 17) – Independence day in commemoration of the departure of French forces in 1946
- Egypt’s Revolution Day (July 23)
- Union of Syria, Egypt, and Libya (September 1)
- Martyrs’ Day, to commemorate the public hanging of 21 dissidents in 1916 (May 6)
- the beginning of the 1973 October War (October 6);
- National Day (November 16)
- Christmas Day (December 25)
BBC country profile Syria – Facts
Religious feasts with movable dates include:
- Eid al Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice
- Muharram, the Islamic New Year
- Greek Orthodox Easter
- Mouloud/Yum an Nabi, celebration of the birth of Muhammad
- Leilat al Meiraj,Ascension of Muhammad
- Eid al Fitr, the end of Ramadan.
The Syrian flag consists of three equal horizontal stripes of red, white, and black with two small green, five-pointed stars in the middle of the white stripe.
- According to the official map of the Syrian Arab Republic, Syria is bordered in the South by Palestine, not Israel
- BBC country profile – Syria profile
- IndexMundi – Country Syria 2013
- Library of Congress – Federal Research Division (2005), Country Profile: Syria, April 2005
- One World -Nations Online – Syria
- Syria. A socio-historical outline by Reem Al Khatib and Rana Yazaji published in ‘Cultural Policies in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia. An introduction’, Cultural Resource/European Cultural Foundation, Bookmanstudies, 2010, 174-176.