WHY TO VISIT SYRIA
Very interesting in many ways, Syria is definitely a country worth discovering: It is considered as one of the birthplaces of mankind, and many people and religions can be found surrounding it.
Damascus, the capital, is not the least of its attractions: One of the oldest cities in the world, it has many must-see sites. The old city ramparts, souk al-Hamadiyyeh, the Umayyad Mosque, the Mausoleum of Saladin, Azem Palace, the National Museum, Qassium Mountain, are some of the wonders not to be missed.
Aleppo is another ancient city and the trade centre between Mediterranean countries and Asia; you will enjoy a visit the labyrinthine souqs, the museum, and the magnificent citadel that overlooks the city.
Palmyra is the largest oasis in the Syrian Desert: You can discover the museum in the new city, but also the ruins with their immense colonnade, the citadel of Qala'at ibn Mann, and the square funerary towers.
In Hama, a quiet town, you will relax with the serenity that accompanies its situation beside the river, its peaceful white houses and gardens’; do visit the site of Apamea though with the superbly paved Cleopatra’s road.
WHAT TO SEE IN SYRIA
Top destinations in Syria are:
- Deir Ezzor
WHEN TO GO TO SYRIA
The best seasons to visit Syria are spring and autumn thanks to the mild temperatures but also the beautiful light that prevail between the main seasons.
The coast has a typical Mediterranean climate, with very hot weather during the summer; the humid winds come from the sea, and a rather cold and rainy winter. Mountainous areas have a harsher climate with temperatures sometimes below zero in January, and snowfall is fairly common.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Syria.
- Independence Day: Kicking off the Syrian events calendar in April is the National Independence day. Traditionally this day is marked with great displays of national unity and pride. Parades are held in most of the major city centers, locals fly the Syrian flag on high and national songs can be heard coming from homes and local stores around the country. Since the outbreak of the civil war, however, all festivities seem to have cooled down considerably.
- Cotton Festival: Every year in July, Aleppo shows the rest of the country just what it has to offer. The region produces almost all of Syria’s cotton exports and during the annual Cotton Festival, factories open their doors to boast their wares and their skills. Locals from all over the country attend the event, not only to learn new and valuable skills but also to buy 100 percent cotton goods at a fraction of the usual price.
- Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan): Followers of the Islamic faith make up 87 percent of the Syrian population which means that Islamic holidays in the country are a big deal. One of the most well known events is Eid al-Fitr which takes place in August every year. Eid marks the end of the month of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The event is characterized by family and friends gathering for a great feast, the exchanging of gifts, the wearing of new clothes and of course, attending mosque.
- Arabic Book Fair: Held in Damascus every September, the Arabic Book fair is newly incepted but has proved to be quite popular. The fair’s main aim is to promote Arabic literature and showcase local writers, both established and up-and-coming. Many international authors are also showcased in this event. The festival includes many events including book launches, signings, and discussions with the authors.
- Silk Road Festival: Also in September is the Silk Road Festival, an interesting event which aims to celebrate and commemorate the diversity and unity of Syria’s many nationalities. The capital city, Damascus is taken on a journey into the past and transformed into what it once looked like when it was a meeting place for Silk Road caverns. The festival also reaches other cities which are bathed in vibrant colors and host many cultural activities.
- Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice): Another Islamic holiday, this time held in October, is the Feast of the sacrifice. An important in Islamic country’s world wide, this festival lasts for two-to-three days and commemorates the decision of Ibrahim to sacrifice his first-born son to God. Locals slaughter a sheep to this effect and together, as families and friends, hold great feasts all over the region.
- The Traditional Festival: Taking place in May, the popular Traditional Festival, also known as the Desert Festival, is an exhilarating and entertaining event of about 40 camels racing through the ruins of Palmyra, an ancient Syrian city.
- The Bosra Festival: In the month of September, the Bosra Festival, which takes place in the city of Bosra, promotes cultural exchange and diversity. During this festival, several musicians of opera, symphony, ballet and other classical genres from around the world join to celebrate their differences.
- The International Flower Fair: In the city of Damascus, the International Flower fair presents the most beautiful flowers of the world, including the renowned Damascus rose. Amongst the variety of competitions, visitors experience the beauty and senses of nature.
- The Damascus International Fair: Another popular festival, held in Damascus, is called the Damascus International Trade Fair. Taking pace in September, this fair is “recognized as one of the most traditional business events in all of the Middle East,” and over 45 countries have participated in previous fairs.
- Palmyra Festival (al Badiya): A three day festival that takes place amid the stunning setting of Roman ruins. Horse and camel races are held in the hippodrome below Qala’at ibn Maan, dance and musical shows in the evenings. Held in late April or early May.
- Peace and Passion Festival: A two week festival of live music with famous singers, dancing and cultural evenings. Syrian paintings and traditional artisan handcrafts are on exhibit. Held annually in August in Latakia.
- Bosra Festival: A festival of music and theatre held in the ancient ruins of Bosra every odd-numbered year.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH SYRIA
by plane, main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON SYRIA
country entry requirements: passport + visa (check your visa requirements)
health tips & vaccination: drink only bottled water and avoid ice. Vaccine against meningitis, hepatitis A and B and malaria prophylaxis are recommended.
local currency: Syrian Pound
local time zone: GMT+2 (+3)
electricity: type C, E and L (220 V, 50 Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN SYRIA
typical food in Syria
- Kibbeh bil sanieh: The national dish of minced meat and bulgur wheat baked with a filling of spiced meat and pine nuts
- Fatteh: Crumbs of fresh or stale breads toasted and served with meat or vegetables and sauce
- Yabrak: Vine leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat
- Ouzi: Pastry stuffed with rice and minced meat
- Mensaf: Pieces of lamb on rice and pine nuts
- Riz a'djaj: Poaxched chicken with rice
- Freekeh with chicken: Oached chicken with slow cooked freekeh wheat served with Syrian truffle, pine nuts and almonds
- Muhammara: A hot pepper dip, originally fron Aleppo
- Mahshi: Courgettes or aubergines stuffed with minced beef or lamb, nuts and rice
- Tabbouleh: Bulgur (or couscous) with parsley, mint, onion, seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice
- Fattoush: Salad with tomato, cucumber and radish in a dressing made with sumac spice
- Malukhiyya: Vegetable dish made with jute leaves chopped a cooked in meat stock with garlic and coriander
- Manoushi bread: A popular snack, like a pizza only softer and chewier
- Baklava: A favourite dessert made from flaky pastry filled with honey and nuts
- Cigar nut pastries: Chopped almonds, pistachios and walnuts rolled with brown sugar and filo pastry
- Ma'amoul: date, pistachio or walnut filled biscuits
souvenirs from Syria
- wooden objects and olive-wood carvings
- leather goods
- gold and silver jewellery
- damask fabric
- dried fruit, chocolate and marzipan sweets
- Aleppo soap
- blown glass
- hookah (water pipe)
- keffiyeh scarfs
- galabieh and djellaba tunic
- mother-of-pearl items
Hello: مرحبا (marhba)
Goodbye: وداعا (wadaeaan)
How are you?: كيف حالك؟ (kayf halk?)
Thank you: شكرا (shukraan)
What is your name?: ما اسمك؟ (ma asmak)
How much is it?: كم سعره؟ (kam saerha?)
Sorry: معذرة (maedhira)