Syria will fascinate tourists with its ancient stones: the Palmyre colonnades, Omeyyade mosques in Damas, souks, hammams, mosques, churches and monuments in Halap. It is a gripping destination where even amateurs will enjoy historically rich Syrian architecture, art and craft. The country is made up of 13 regions, but two thirds of Syria is desert; hence the population lives in the west of the country, along the coast and between the major areas of Halap and Damas. There is a stark contrast between the modern Syria of big cities and the more authentic Syria of the hinterlands.
Security: the FCO advises against all travel to Syria. Following an attack in Damascus on 21 August there is now an increased risk of chemical weapons usage in and around the capital. There has also been in an increase in kidnappings of NGO workers. For full details see the FCO Website and follow international press coverage. .
Surface area : 185180.0 km2
Population : 17500000 inhabitants
The production of fabric is a very long-standing tradition in Syria. In the souk of Damascus, you'll find gold and silver-embroidered brocades, while in Aleppo you'll more likely to come across brightly coloured silk headscarves. You may also wish to purchase bars of soap made from olive oil or using bay leaves (the original Marseille soap). Damascus is especially known for its marquetry. Unfortunately, plastic is often used in place of pearls or camel bone for inlays!
The carpets you find at the souks are not made locally but rather imported from Iran, Turkey and even Caucasus, and they are relatively expensive.
The shops are open from 8:00am to 1:00pm or from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. In summer they are open until 7:00pm or 8:00pm.
Hot (burek, a fried pastry often filled with cheese; kibbe, fried minced meatballs; etc.) and cold (hummus, a chick pea purée; baba ganoush, an aubergine and sesame seed purée; past?rma, a paprika-seasoned, air-dried cured beef; etc.) mezze are served as starters but could also constitute a complete meal. You will find mutton (shish kebab) and chicken (shish taouk) skewers on the menu in every last restaurant. The honey and pistachio-based pastries are delicious. Try some arrack, pure or diluted. It is the local anisette.
Latest news items: Following the latest events and violence unfolding in Syria, international flights to Syria have been suspended until further notice.
Since March 2011, the Syrian government has been leading a bloody repression. According to the UN, there have been more than 8,500 deaths. French nationals, with the French Consulate in Latakia being the target, were the subject of an attack last November. At this time, the French government asked all French nationals living and travelling in the country to leave without delay. The UK followed suit. Any plans to travel to and within the country are to be postponed or cancelled. The British Embassy in Damascus has suspended all services and all diplomatic personnel have been withdrawn from Syria. In an emergency, you should contact the Hungarian Embassy in Damascus:
(00-963-11) 611-07-87, 611-28-04, or 611-79-66
Emergency number: 00-963-955-336-006 Once again, British nationals are asked to leave Syria.
You can find all of this information on the UK in Syria website
Syrians are rather conservative, so avoid clothing that is too short, tight, revealing or that could be considered as being too evocative. And of course, no shorts or bare shoulders when entering the mosques and churches. When talking with a Syrian, avoid touchy subjects: Israel, the political regime, etc., you could easily make others uncomfortable.