The Syrian Arab Republic is home to one of the oldest civilisations in the world. The country’s history dates back 700,000 years and is rich in beauty and culture, but, unfortunately, a lot of this history involves conflicts and destruction due to an ongoing Civil War. Curious to learn more? From its ancient roots to its recent political instability here are some of the most interesting facts about Syria.
7 Interesting Facts about Syria
1. Syria is in Western Asia
The official name of Syria is the Syrian Arab Republic, and it is located in Western Asia. The Mediterranean Sea borders Syria to the west and Turkey borders Syria to the north. Iraq borders Syria to the east and southeast, Jordan borders Syria to the south, and Israel and Lebanon border Syria to the southwest.
2. Syria is home to the oldest library in the world
Syria is home to one of the oldest civilisations in the world. Archaeologists have uncovered skeletons and bones of Neanderthals that lived in the region dating back to around 700,000 years ago. The city of Ebla is one of the oldest settlements excavated and it is thought to have existed around 3,000 BC. Also found at the site of Ebla were around 1,800 clay tablets dating from around 3,000 BC, making this the oldest library in the world.
3. Syria’s population is incredibly diverse
Syria’s population is made up of several ethnic groups, with multiple religions and languages spoken across the country.
Ethnic Groups: Arab 50%, Alawite 15%, Kurd 10%, Levantine 10%, other 15% (includes Druze, Ismaili, Imami, Nusairi, Assyrian, Turkoman, Armenian)
Religion: Muslim 87% (official; includes Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian 10% (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian), Druze 3%, Jewish (few remaining in Damascus and Aleppo)
In 2010, Syria had a population of roughly 22.5 million people, however, due to the country’s Civil War, its population decreased between 2011 and 2018. This is because around 6.8 million people sought refuge in other countries and over 606,000 people were killed. In 2018, the population was 16,945,057. Since then, it has slowly started to increase and as of April 2022, the population is 19,364,809. Before the war, Syria’s estimated population included 21,124,000 Syrians, as well as 1.3 million Iraqi refugees and over 500,000 Palestinians.
4. Syria gained independence in 1946
Many countries and empires have occupied and ruled Syria, for instance, the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Mitanni, Assyrians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Arameans, Amorites, Persians, Greeks and Romans. Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years from 1516 until 1918. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, France governed Syria until it gained independence in 1946. Following this, from 1958 to 1961, Syria was part of the short-lived union of Syria and Egypt, which was the United Arab Republic.
5. Damascus is the oldest capital city in the world
The capital city of Syria is Damascus which is the longest continually inhabited city in the world. Founded around the 3rd millennium BC, Damascus also has a mention in the Bible’s book of Genesis, and today, the Ancient City of Damascus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has some 125 monuments from different periods of its history. One of the most spectacular is the 8th-century Great Mosque of the Umayyads. This is one of the world’s largest and earliest surviving stone mosques.
6. Syria has six UNESCO World Heritage Sites
As mentioned, the Ancient City of Damascus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, Syria has five other UNESCO cities: the ancient cities of Aleppo, Bosra, and Palmyra. The ancient villages of Northern Syria, and the crusader castles of Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din are also UNESCO sites.
7. Syria’s flag is full of symbolism
The flag of Syria features a red, white and black horizontal stripe with two green stars on the white stripe, which is also the same as the former flag of the United Arab Republic with the two stars representing the states of Syria and Egypt. The flag’s colours have lots of meaning, for example, black symbolises oppression, the colour red symbolises revolution, and the colour white symbolises a bright future.