About Syria [ Country ]

Here we've distilled information and facts from various sources about the location, size, population, geography, transport, climate, economy, history, government, law, and so on, of Syria; into a view that makes sense for a traveller to, or within, this country.

Location

Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey

Climate

Mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus

Terrain

Primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west

Elevation

lowest point: unnamed location near Lake Tiberias -200 m
highest point: Mount Hermon 2,814 m

Geo Notes

There are 41 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (2010 est.)

Approved Official Names

conventional long form: Syrian Arab Republic
conventional short form: Syria
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah
local short form: Suriyah
former: United Arab Republic (with Egypt)

Capital City

name: Damascus
geographic coordinates: 33 30 N, 36 18 E
time difference: UTC+2
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins first Friday in April; ends last Friday in October

Administrative Divisions

14 provinces (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Al Hasakah, Al Ladhiqiyah (Latakia), Al Qunaytirah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda', Dar'a, Dayr az Zawr, Dimashq, Halab, Hamah, Hims, Idlib, Rif Dimashq (Damascus), Tartus

Natuaral Hazards

Dust storms, sandstorms
volcanism: Syria's two historically active volcanoes, Es Safa and an unnamed volcano near the Turkish border have not erupted in centuries

Environmental Issues

Deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution from raw sewage and petroleum refining wastes; inadequate potable water

Life Expectancy

total population: 74.46 years
male: 72.1 years
female: 76.96 years (2010 est.)

Sex Ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Languages Spoken

Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood

Religions Practiced

Sunni Muslim 74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Druze) 16%, Christian (various denominations) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)

Legal System

Based on a combination of French and Ottoman civil law; Islamic law is used in the family court system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National Holiday

Independence Day, 17 April (1946)

Illicit Drugs

A transit point for opiates, hashish, and cocaine bound for regional and Western markets; weak anti-money-laundering controls and bank privatization may leave it vulnerable to money laundering

Telephone System

general assessment: fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology and expansion of the network to rural areas
domestic: the number of fixed-line connections has increased markedly since 2000; mobile-cellular service growing with telephone subscribership reaching nearly 50 per 100 persons in 2009
international: country code - 963; submarine cable connection to Egypt, Lebanon, and Cyprus; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel

Broadcast Media

State-run television and radio broadcast networks; state operates 2 TV networks and a satellite channel; roughly two-thirds of Syrian homes have a satellite dish providing access to foreign TV broadcasts; 3 state-run radio channels; first private radio station launched in 2005; private radio broadcasters prohibited from transmitting news or political content (2007)

Background

Following World War I, France acquired a mandate over the northern portion of the former Ottoman Empire province of Syria. The French administered the area as Syria until granting it independence in 1946. The new country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In September 1961, the two entities separated, and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the Socialist Ba'th Party and the minority Alawite sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-ASAD, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April 2005. During the July-August 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah, Syria placed its military forces on alert but did not intervene directly on behalf of its ally Hizballah. In May 2007 Bashar al-ASAD was elected to his second term as president.

Economy Overview

Syrian economic growth slowed to 1.8% in 2009 as the global economic crisis affected oil prices and the economies of Syria's key export partners and sources of investment. Damascus has implemented modest economic reforms in the past few years, including cutting lending interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating all of the multiple exchange rates, raising prices on some subsidized items, most notably gasoline and cement, and establishing the Damascus Stock Exchange - which was set to begin operations in 2009. In addition, President ASAD signed legislative decrees to encourage corporate ownership reform, and to allow the Central Bank to issue Treasury bills and bonds for government debt. Nevertheless, the economy remains highly controlled by the government. Long-run economic constraints include declining oil production, high unemployment, rising budget deficits, and increasing pressure on water supplies caused by heavy use in agriculture, rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and water pollution.

People Trafficking

current situation: Syria is a destination and transit country for women and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; a significant number of women and children in the large and expanding Iraqi refugee community in Syria are reportedly forced into commercial sexual exploitation by Iraqi gangs or, in some cases, their families; women from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone are recruited for work in Syria as domestic servants, but some face conditions of involuntary servitude, including long hours, non-payment of wages, withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, threats, and physical or sexual abuse
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Syria again failed to report any law enforcement efforts to punish trafficking offenses in 2007; in addition, the government did not offer protection services to victims of trafficking and may have arrested, prosecuted, or deported some victims for prostitution or immigration violations; Syria has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2008)

National Anthem

name: "Humat ad-Diyar" (Guardians of the Homeland)
lyrics/music: Khalil Mardam BEY/Mohammad Salim FLAYFEL and Ahmad Salim FLAYFEL
note: adopted 1936, restored 1961; between 1958 and 1961, while Syria was a member of the United Arab Republic with Egypt, the country had a different anthem

Syria location map
Size

total: 185,180 sq km
land: 183,630 sq km
water: 1,550 sq km
note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory

Syria flag
Population

22,198,110 (July 2010 est.)
note: approximately 19,100 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights (2008 est.)

Nationality

noun: Syrian(s)
adjective: Syrian

Ethnic Groups

Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%

HIV/AIDS Rate

Less than 0.1% (2001 est.)

Independence Date

17 April 1946 (from League of Nations mandate under French administration)

Government Type

Republic under an authoritarian regime

Voting Rights

18 years of age; universal

Internet Users

3.565 million (2008)

Internet Hosts

8,114 (2010)

Internet Country Code

.sy

Refugees & IDPs

refugees (country of origin): 1-1.4 million (Iraq); 522,100 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA))
IDPs: 305,000 (most displaced from Golan Heights during 1967 Arab-Israeli War) (2007)

Number Airports

104 (2010)

Number Paved Airports

total: 29
over 3,047 m: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 15
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 5 (2010)

Number Heliports

7 (2010)

Railways

total: 2,052 km
standard gauge: 1,801 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 251 km 1.050-m gauge (2008)

Roadways

total: 97,401 km
paved: 19,490 km (includes 1,103 km of expressways)
unpaved: 77,911 km (2006)

Inland Waterways

900 km (not economically significant) (2008)

Ports & Terminals

Baniyas, Latakia, Tartus

National Budget

revenues: $9.826 billion
expenditures: $13.69 billion (2009 est.)

Account Balance

$394 million (2009 est.)
$66 million (2008 est.)

Exchange Rates

Syrian pounds (SYP) per US dollar - 46.8599 (2009), 46.5281 (2008), 50.0085 (2007), 51.689 (2006), 50 (2005)
note: data for 2004-06 are the public sector rate; data for 2002-03 are the parallel market rate in 'Amman and Beirut; the official rate for repaying loans was 11.25 Syrian pounds per US dollars during 2004-06,

Inflation Rate

2.6% (2009 est.)
15.7% (2008 est.)

Main Industries

Petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining, cement, oil seeds crushing, car assembly

Agricultural Products

Wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk

Labor Force

5.382 million (2009 est.)

Main Occupations

agriculture: 17%
industry: 16%
services: 67% (2008 est.)

Unemployment Rate

8.5% (2009 est.)
10.9% (2008 est.)

GDP (USD Parity)

$100.8 billion (2009 est.)
$96.04 billion (2008 est.)
$92.07 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP Per Capita

$4,600 (2009 est.)
$4,500 (2008 est.)
$4,500 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

Family Income Percent

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Below Poverty

11.9% (2006 est.)