Places in Syria

Top events in Syrian Arab Republic

July
08

Annual four-day Jazz festival featuring local and international talents.

November
16

Also called the festival of sacrifice, the festival follows the annual Islamic pilgrimage and commemorates the trials of the Prophet Abraham....

April
01

Flower traders and enthusiasts gather every year for the capital's annual flower show.

Overlooking the Roman City in Syria
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Overlooking the Roman City in Syria

© Creative Commons / Neil Carey

Syrian Arab Republic Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

185,180 sq km (71,498 sq miles).

Population

18 million (2014).

Population density

96.9 per sq km.

Capital

Damascus.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Bashar al-Assad since 2000. Ahmad Saleh Touma is prime minister of Syrian National Coalition since 2013.

Head of government

Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi since 2012.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins and Italian-style plugs with three round pins in a row are used.

Until the recent civil war, Syria was a diverse destination that revelled in its antiquity. Inhabited for tens of thousands of years, the country accumulated all the cultural riches afforded by such a long history and was rightly considered one of the Middle East’s top destinations. Sadly, the war-ravaged nation is now struggling to preserve its ancient relics, which document the rise and fall of myriad civilisations.

Like its history, Syria’s landscapes are varied. Vast steppes cover much of the country, but mountains soar in the west, deserts stretch in the east and volcanic fields spread across the south. Meandering through this dusty land is the great Euphrates River, which also flows through neighbouring Iraq.

Syria was once regarded as a frontier region, bordered to the east by Persians and west by the Arabs. The country fell to the Persians in the sixth century and though it retained Christian and Jewish populations, Syria was from then on a Muslim nation.

The country’s story is littered with dramatic episodes. Syria was subsumed by empires from Babylon to Canaan, Assyria to Phoenicia; it was conquered by the Ottomans, endured a campaign by Napoleon and was invaded by the Egyptians. During the height of pan-Arabism in the 1950s, the country briefly joined with Egypt in the United Arab Republic, but seceded to form the Syrian Arab Republic in 1961.

The battles and territorial scrambles of the past have translated into a catalogue of staggering cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo, which are chock-full of stunning monuments and ancient mosques.

The uprising against the ruling Baath Party in 2011 gave way to a civil war, which continues to rage and is further complicated by the formidable presence of the jihadist militant group Islamic State. Travel to Syria is ill-advised (it is probably the most dangerous country on the planet right now) and the future remains uncertain.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 01 July 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Civil Unrest/Political Tension

There is a reduced number commercial flights due to the implementation of sanctions, the security situation and the high level of violence. This severely limits options for air travel and seat availability. Fighting in the vicinity of airports has caused the temporary suspension of flights. Road networks have been blocked without warning. Several major highways including Tartous-Latakia, Tartous-Homs, Latakia-Aleppo, Homs-Hama, Homs-Damascus and Damascus-Jordan have been temporarily closed. There are security force checkpoints on major road routes.

Fighting and road closures have affected access to some land border crossing points. You should check the status of all routes before travelling. Some border crossings are in the hands of opposition groups, vulnerable to attack, and/or closed. The border crossing points between Syria and Jordan are subject to occasional closure. The border crossing points between Syria and Lebanon remain open, including the Masnaa crossing point on the Damascus-Beirut road. Don’t attempt to enter Iraq via the Syrian border, which is subject to restrictions on both sides.

Be particularly vigilant in public places and keep a low profile. Don’t film or take photographs of public gatherings, military activity or any other sensitive matter.

All foreign journalists entering Syria need special permission from the Syrian authorities. Those journalists and other foreigners in opposition-held areas are vulnerable to mistreatment by the armed groups there. A number of foreign journalists have been killed. Others have been detained by the Syrian security forces or other armed groups during the crisis. The security forces have confiscated phones, cameras and video cameras.

There are restrictions on unlicensed political and religious activity in Syria. The Syrian authorities have detained and deported several British nationals for unauthorised activity. Activity in opposition-held areas will also attract attention. If you are deported by the local authorities, you will not be able to return to Syria.

Crime

The escalating conflict has led to a rise in crime in some areas, including violent robbery, carjacking and kidnapping.

Road travel

Driving standards and traffic systems are poor, and the accident rate is high. When there is a car accident with a pedestrian, the car driver is always legally responsible. You should avoid driving at night.

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