The Syria of today offers tourists as much a cultural experience as a sightseeing one, where ancient history provides a fascinating backdrop to everyday life on the streets                          



Introduction To Syria

Background: Following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Syria was administered by the French until independence in 1946. 


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

Geographic coordinates: 35 00 N, 38 00 E

Map references: Middle East

Area:  total: 185,180 sq km
          note: includes 1,295 sq km of Israeli-occupied territory
         water: 1,130 sq km
         land: 184,050 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly larger than North Dakota

Land boundaries: total: 2,253 km
                          border countries: Iraq 605 km, Israel 76 km, Jordan 375 km, Lebanon 375 km, Turkey 822 km

Coastline: 193 km

Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 41 NM
               territorial sea: 35 NM

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

Natural resources: petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum,           hydropower

Land use: arable land: 26%
                permanent crops: 4%
               other: 70% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land: 12,130 sq km (1998 est.)

 Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification

Population: 17,155,814 (July 2002 est.)

Age structure:0-14 years: 39.3% (male 3,467,267; female 3,264,639)
                    15-64 years: 57.5% (male 5,052,841; female 4,817,662)
                    65 years and over: 3.2% (male 267,803; female 285,602) (2002 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.5% (2002 est.)

Birth rate: 30.11 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Death rate: 5.12 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
               under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
              15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
              65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female
              total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2002 est.)

Life expectancy at birth: total population: 69.08 years
female: 70.32 years (2002 est.)
male: 67.9 years

Nationality: noun: Syrian(s)
                  adjective: Syrian

Ethnic groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7%

Religions: Muslim, Christian (various sects), Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)

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

Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
              total population: 70.8%
              male: 85.7%
              female: 55.8% (1997 est.)


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

Government type: Republic 

Capital: Damascus

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

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

National holiday: Independence Day, 17 April (1946)

Constitution: 13 March 1973

Legal system: based on Islamic law and civil law system; special religious courts

Executive branch: president of state:Bashar al-ASAD (since 17 July 2000); Vice Presidents Abd al-Halim ibn Said KHADDAM (since 11 March 1984) and Muhammad Zuhayr MASHARIQA (since 11 March 1984)
head of government: Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa MIRU (since 13 March 2000), Deputy Prime Ministers Lt. Gen. Mustafa TALAS (since 11 March 1984), Farouk al-SHARA (since 13 December 2001), Dr. Muhammad al-HUSAYN (since 13 December 2001)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; referendum/election last held 10 July 2000 - after the death of President Hafez al-ASAD, father of Bashar al-ASAD - (next to be held NA 2007); vice presidents appointed by the president; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president
note: Hafiz al-ASAD died on 10 June 2000; on 20 June 2000, the Ba'th Party nominated Bashar al-ASAD for president and presented his name to the People's Council on 25 June 2000
election results: Bashar al-ASAD elected president; percent of vote - Bashar al-ASAD 97.29%

Legislative branch: People's Council or Majlis al-shaab (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)

Judicial branch: Supreme Constitutional Court (justices are appointed for four-year terms by the president); High Judicial Council; Court of Cassation; State Security Courts

Political parties and leaders: National Progressive Front or NPF (includes the Ba'th Party, ASU, Arab Socialist Party, Socialist Unionist Democratic Party, ASP, SCP) [President Bashar al-ASAD, chairman]; Arab Socialist Renaissance (Ba'th) Party (governing party) [President Bashar al-ASAD, secretary general]; Syrian Arab Socialist Party or ASP [Safwan KOUDSI]; Syrian Communist Party or SCP [Yusuf FAYSAL]; Syrian Social National Party [Jubran URAYJI]

International organization participation: AFESD, AL, AMF, CAEU, CCC, ESCWA, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNRWA, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black, with two small green five-pointed stars in a horizontal line centered in the white band; similar to the flag of Yemen, which has a plain white band, and of Iraq, which has three green stars (plus an Arabic inscription) in a horizontal line centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Egypt, which has a heraldic eagle centered in the white band


Economy - overview: Syria's economy has been growing. President Bashar AL-ASAD has made many progress on the economic front after one year in office, permitting a gradual strengthening of the private sector. His most obvious accomplishment to this end was the recent passage of legislation allowing private banks to operate in Syria,  ASAD's recent cabinet reshuffle will improve implementation of further growth-oriented policies.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $54.2 billion (2001 est.)

GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 27%
                                              industry: 23%
                                              services: 50% (2000 est.)

Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 40%, industry 20%, services 40% (1996 est.)

Industries: petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages, tobacco, phosphate rock mining

Electricity - production: 19.7 billion kWh (2000)

Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 64.47%
                                                   hydro: 35.53%
                                                   other: 0% (2000)
                                                   nuclear: 0%

Electricity - consumption: 17.671 billion kWh (2000)

Electricity - exports: 650 million kWh (2000)

Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)

Agriculture - products: wheat, barley, cotton, lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugar beets; beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, milk

Exports: $5 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)

Exports - commodities: crude oil 68%, textiles 7%, fruits and vegetables 6%, raw cotton 4% (1998 est.)

Exports - partners: Germany 27%, Italy 12%, France 10%, Turkey 10%, Saudi Arabia 7% (2000 est.)

Imports: $4 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)

Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment 21%, food and livestock 18%, metal and metal products 15%, chemicals and chemical products 10% (2000 est.)

Imports - partners: Italy 9%, Germany 7%, France 5%, Lebanon 5%, China 4%, South Korea 4%, Turkey 4%, US 4% (2000 est.)

Currency: Syrian pound (SYP)

Currency code: SYP

Exchange rates: Syrian pounds per US dollar - 51 

Fiscal year: calendar year


Telephones - main lines in use: 1.313 million (1997)

Telephone system: general assessment: fair system currently undergoing significant improvement and digital upgrades, including fiber-optic technology
domestic: coaxial cable and microwave radio relay network
international: satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) and 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region); 1 submarine cable; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; participant in Medarabtel

Radio broadcast stations: AM 14, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)

Radios: 4.15 million (1997)

 Televisions: 1.05 million (1997)

Internet country code: .sy

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)


Railways: total: 2,750 km
               standard gauge: 2,423 km 1.435-m gauge
              note: rail link between Syria and Iraq replaced in 2000 (2001)
              narrow gauge: 327 km 1.050-m gauge

Highways: total: 41,451 km
                paved: 9,575 km (including 877 km of expressways)
               unpaved: 31,876 km (1997)

Waterways: 870 km (minimal economic importance)

Pipelines: crude oil 1,304 km; petroleum products 515 km

Ports and harbors: Baniyas, Jablah, Latakia, Tartus

Merchant marine: total: 143 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 482,985 GRT/702,590 DWT
                           note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Egypt 1, Greece 2, Italy 1, Lebanon 10 (2002 est.)
                          ships by type: bulk 12, cargo 126, livestock carrier 4, roll on/roll off 1

Airports: 99 (2001)

Airports - with paved runways: total: 24
                                               over 3,047 m: 5
                                               2,438 to 3,047 m: 16
                                               under 914 m: 1 (2001)
                                               914 to 1,523 m: 2


Military branches: Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Arab Navy, Syrian Arab Air Force (includes Air Defense Forces), Police and Security Force

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