Discover the Enchanting Beauty of Syria: A Land of Ancient Wonders
Syria is an Arab country located in the Middle East on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, covering an area of 185,180 square kilometers. It is bordered by Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan and Palestine to the south, and Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Its capital is the ancient city of Damascus, one of the oldest cities in the world, and Aleppo is the largest city in terms of population, followed by Homs and Latakia. Before the war, Syria's economy was mainly based on tourism, agriculture, services, and unexploited mineral resources.
Syrians, in general, belong to diverse cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. The majority of the population consists of Sunni Arabs, followed by Alawites, Turkmen, Kurds, Christians, Syriacs, Druze, and Circassians. The official language of the country is Arabic, but ethnic groups, although minorities, speak their native languages in their daily interactions, alongside Arabic and the Syrian dialect. These languages include Kurdish, Syriac, Turkish, Aramaic, Armenian, and Circassian.
Name and History:
Most researchers believe that the name "Syria" is derived from the name of the Assyrian Empire, with the letter "Shin" being replaced by "Seen." The Assyrian Empire was a state that emerged and spread its civilization in the fertile crescent region (the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the coastal area of Bilad al-Sham). The Arabs referred to the region as "al-Sham," which likely means "the left" or "the north," indicating the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula. This name is still used today to describe Damascus or the natural region of Syria, which includes Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan. The official writing of the name "Syria" was influenced by the Ottoman language, but according to the rules of the Arabic language, it should be written with an "Aleph" rather than a "Ta' Marbuta."
Human traces dating back thousands of years, to about 150,000 years BC, have been found in Syria. The practice of agriculture in the region dates back to about 12,000 years BC. The region was sought after by societies due to its fertile soil, favorable climate, and its location along important international trade routes and as a passage for armies. Various strong states, empires, and kingdoms existed in Syria, including the Assyrian Empire, the Seleucid Empire, the Roman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire, until it became the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate and later the Abbasid Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire, which lasted until World War I. Syria is considered, alongside Iraq, the cradle of human civilization, and it witnessed several civilizations throughout history, such as the Amorite, Canaanite, and Aramean civilizations, which continued until the Islamic conquests. As for the kingdoms, there were several famous ones like the kingdoms of Yamhad, Mari, Ebla, and the Kingdom of Qatna.
Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates:
Islamic conquest of Syria began in 636 AD under the leadership of Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah during the reign of the second Caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab. Soon after, this region became the epicenter of the first Islamic civil war, which resulted in the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate with its capital in Damascus in 661 AD, lasting until its fall at the hands of the Abbasids. Syria expanded significantly during this period and prospered culturally, economically, and intellectually as it hosted the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate. Many remnants of the Umayyad Caliphate can still be found in Syria. The Abbasid revolution began in 749 AD and managed to seize the Umayyad's strongholds, especially Damascus. However, as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate was in Baghdad, less attention was given to Syria compared to the Umayyad era, except for the eastern parts of the region and the Euphrates Valley, where some of the caliphs, leaders, and princes settled. During the period of the weakening of the Abbasid Caliphate, semi-independent states emerged in the region, such as the Hamdanid state and the "Seljuks of Syria," which managed to restore the Abbasid influence in the Levant after the region came under the Fatimid state's rule. After the disintegration of the Seljuks of Syria, the region entered a series of civil wars until the arrival of the armies of the Second Crusade near Damascus, but they failed to enter it as the Zengids did later. Eventually, the Ayyubid state was established, which inherited the Zengids and succeeded in unifying Syria, Egypt, and capturing Jerusalem. After the Ayyubids, the Mamluk state controlled all of the Levant after expelling the Crusaders from Antioch. During this period, the Mongols invaded and burned the cities of Aleppo and Damascus, led by Hulagu. Later, the Mamluks managed to expel the Mongols from the region in the Battle of Ain Jalut. A century later, these cities were again destroyed by Timur in 1401. Generally, the rule of the Mamluks over the territories
The Ottoman Empire:
After Sultan Selim I conquered Syria in the Battle of Marj Dabiq on August 24, 1516, the region came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The Levant remained under unified administrative division, and cities like Aleppo and Damascus prospered during the 16th and 17th centuries. Damascus served as a starting point for Hajj caravans, while Aleppo became a passage for trade caravans heading towards Iraq and Persia. However, with the mid-18th and early 19th centuries, the region experienced significant chaos, wars between governors, and independence-seeking movements. Bedouin attacks further contributed to the disorder until the region fell under the rule of Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1831. His rule was marked by administrative reforms, but certain practices like conscription led to local uprisings in 1833. Eventually, Abdulmejid I managed to regain Syrian territories with the support of Russia and Britain in 1840 and returned them under Ottoman rule. From 1840 until the outbreak of World War I, the region flourished intellectually, culturally, politically, and economically. Arab Renaissance movements emerged, local and foreign schools, newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses were established, but these developments were mostly confined to major cities, while smaller towns and villages remained under feudal control. To this day, architectural sites dating back to the Ottoman rule can be found in Syria, such as markets, palaces, and mosques, though most of them are present only in major cities like Damascus and Aleppo.
The Mandate, First, and Second Republics:
The Great Arab Revolt started in 1916, and Arab forces, alongside the Allies, entered Syria at the end of 1918. In 1919, the Syrian Parliament, known as the General Syrian Congress, was established, and the Arab Kingdom of Syria was declared in 1920, although it was not recognized. In July 1920, France entered Damascus after the Battle of Maysalun, marking the beginning of French colonial rule over Syrian territories. The Great Syrian Revolt erupted in 1925 and lasted until 1927. In 1930, the first constitution of the Syrian state was established, and in 1932, Muhammad Ali al-Abid was elected as the first President of the Republic. Subsequent events included the 1936 strike, protests over the disbanding of the Alexandretta region in 1939, and Syria being occupied by the Allies during World War II, particularly after the Battle of Damascus in 1941. In 1943, Shukri al-Quwatli was elected as the President, and Syria gained full independence in 1946. After that, the country witnessed a period of coups, starting with the Ba'ath Party coup on March 8, 1963, which annulled the constitution, exiled political figures, and dissolved all state authorities, including judicial, legislative, and executive branches. This was followed by another coup in 1966 and the loss of the Golan Heights in 1967. Hafez al-Assad's coup in 1970, referred to as the Corrective Movement, brought him to power and the presidency. In 1973, the Ba'ath Party introduced a new constitution for Syria, emphasizing one-party rule. In 1979, the Muslim Brotherhood uprising against the regime led to the Hama massacre in 1982, resulting in the deaths of at least ten thousand civilians and the displacement of many political figures on charges of affiliation with the Brotherhood. In 2000, after Hafez al-Assad's death, the constitution was amended to allow Bashar al-Assad to succeed his father in power. Following Bashar al-Assad's swearing-in on July 17, 2000, a period known as the "Damascus Spring" occurred, characterized by intellectual and political openness by some politicians, students, and thinkers. However, this was short-lived as it came to an end on February 17, 2001, when security and intelligence forces clamped down, leading to the freezing of all political activities. This situation persisted until the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011.
The Arab Spring and the Syrian Revolution:
On March 15, 2011, protests erupted in several Syrian cities as part of the Arab Spring, driven by several reasons, including corruption in state institutions and the tight grip of security forces on the population. These protests demanded that the regime of Bashar al-Assad relinquish power and spread gradually throughout the country's provinces. However, the government responded with repression, gunfire, and arrests that violated human rights, leading to the militarization of the revolution and the emergence of armed movements and defections within the ranks of the government's army, giving rise to the Free Syrian Army. The protests of the revolution turned into an urban war, with the Assad regime using heavy and internationally prohibited weapons, with the involvement of various countries, including Russia and Iran. This led to the destruction of infrastructure, the displacement of over 14 million Syrians internally and externally, and the death of approximately one million civilians. Despite the suppression by the regime and its allies in most regions of the country, the war and the revolution continue to this day.
The climate in Syria is divided into two main types. The coastal and near-coastal regions experience a Mediterranean climate, while the rest of the areas have a dry climate. The dry climate is characterized by extreme cold in winter and intense heat in summer. On the other hand, the Mediterranean climate is characterized by high humidity, cold and rainy winters, and hot and dry summers, with two transitional seasons, spring and autumn.
- Full Name: Syrian Arab Republic
- Official Currency: Syrian Pound
- Capital: Damascus
- Population: 18 million (within Syria)
- Official Language: Arabic
- Establishment Date: March 8, 1920
- Full Independence: April 17, 1946
- Area: 185,180 square kilometers
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