Officially Syrian Arab Republic, Syria is a nation in West Asia, boasting one of the oldest inhabited cities, Damascus. Its neighbors include Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq. Currently marred by a never-ending civil war, the country’s state hasn’t always been like that. Continue reading to learn more fascinating Syria facts you probably didn’t know.
1. It Consists of Various Religious Groups
Even though most of the people in Syria are Sunni Muslims, the country welcomes other religions. It’s not unusual to come across Christians, Yazidis, Druze, and Alawites in the region.
2. Syria Banned Yo-Yos in 1933
After a severe drought that hit Syria, the locals agreed to ban yo-yos. They superstitiously believed their use caused the adverse weather conditions, so the yo-yos had to go.
3. Damascus Is the Capital City of Syria
Besides being the capital city of Syria, Damascus is also one of the world’s oldest, continuously inhabited cities. Records show that it was first settled around the 3rd millennium BC. It is poetically the “City of Jasmine” and a major cultural center of the Levant and the larger Arab World. Today, Damascus is the seat of the central government of Syria.
4. Syria Has Been Plagued with A Civil War Since 2011
Since July 2011, Syria has witnessed more war and less peace. It is a multi-sided battle, with several other countries involved. In 2012, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation cut ties with Syria, citing concern over the mass civilian persecution and murder, mainly under Bash al-Assad’s (the country’s president) oversight.
5. Syria Is One of the Most Unsafe Countries
In 2022, the Global Peace Index ranked Syria as the third last peaceful nation. Today, it ranks 5th highest in the Fragile States Index. Simply put, Syria is one of the most violent places on earth. Corruption and drug peddling is also an issue.
6. The Domestic Golden Hamsters Petted Today Descended from Syria
Historical documents show that the golden hamsters domesticated today originated from Syria. A pair of the species were captured in Aleppo, Syria, in 1930, bred, and distributed worldwide.
7. There Is A Region in Syria Called Dead Cities
Also known as Forgotten Cities, Dead Cities is a series of abandoned towns, monuments, and settlements in Northwest Syria. The majority of the houses date back to the late Roman and Byzantine periods. They are largely unexcavated because they are generally unreachable by road.
8. Syria Is Among the Poorest Countries
Thanks to the civil war that started in 2011, most of Syria’s citizens languish in poverty. The feuds have led to a refugee crisis, with millions of internally displaced persons. With that, more than 90% of the population lives in abject poverty, with most facing food insecurity.
9. Syrian Air Is Syria’s Official Airline
Syria’s four international airports are Damascus, Kamishly, Lattakia, and Aleppo. They are hubs for Syrian Air, the country’s official airline. However, the majority of Syrian cargo is transported by the Syrian Railways, linking the nation with its counterpart from Turkey, the Turkish State Railways. Even though Syria falls under the underdeveloped countries category, its infrastructure is commendable.
10. Arabic Is Syria’s National Language
The national language of Syria is Arabic. This is unsurprising, considering most of the people from the region are mainly Islam. Though not official, other common languages include Kurdish, Turkish, and all the Neo-Aramaic dialects.
11. The Pope First Visited Syria in 2001
Syria attracts a lot of biblical allusions. So when Pope John Paul II visited Syria on May 7, 2001, he made history. Interestingly, he removed his shoes and entered the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, which is unusual for Christians. The pope visited what is believed to be the tomb of John the Baptist for Christians, or Yah-ya el-Mamadan for Muslims. This encouraged the next papal mosque visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.
12. Syria Is Among the Countries with the Least Powerful Passports
While Japan boasts of having one of the strongest passports in the world (attracts visa-free access to about 193 countries), Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq are on the tail end of this. Syrian passport attracts visa-free access in nearly 30 countries.
13. There Is a Group of Aramaic Speakers in Syria
Aramaic is believed to be the language spoken by the religious/historical Jesus. Apparently, a small village in Syria still speaks the language today. It is also spoken in the Iraqi Christian Community and some Jewish communities.
14. Syria Was Once a Peaceful Country
Contrary to what we have today, Syria ranked among the most peaceful countries before it plunged into civil war. In fact, Gallup’s Worldwide Research ranked the nation as the 5th most personally safe country in 2009.