Unfortunately, Syria has been on the news for all the wrong reasons for many years. So, it’s only natural that many of us in the Western world associate it with war and humanitarian disaster.
However, the history of Syria goes back thousands of years, to centuries of cultural heritage which are actually extremely impressive, just like its legends, customs and legacy.
So let’s have a look at the top interesting facts about Syria.
1. One of the earliest libraries in the world was in Syria
One of the first kingdoms in Syria, Ebla, housed one of the earliest libraries ever recorded. Italian archaeologists uncovered 20,000 tablets in 1964, showing signs of how they were classified on shelves according to subject.
2. The Syrian Empire – led by a woman – was a rival to Rome
In the 3rd century AD, Queen Zenobia ruled over the Palmyrene Empire in Syria. She spoke several languages and was known as a fierce “warrior queen”. They were independent of the Roman Empire and considered a rival, an interesting fact about Syria.
3. Damascus is the oldest inhabited city in the world
Syria’s capital city was first mentioned in an Egyptian document from 1500 BC making it the oldest inhabited city in the world. Through carbon dating, it’s been found that the site was occupied as far back as 6300 BC.
4. Syria was the “Cradle of Civilization”
The area occupied by Syria, along with Jordan, Israel and Lebanon, is what is known as the “Cradle of Civilization” and used to be controlled by Syria. This is the origin of many achievements, such as agriculture, trade, religion, and the advent of writing.
5. In the Middle Ages, Damascus was a key point in silk trading
A fun fact about Syria is that Damascus used to be a major stop on the “silk road” to and from Asia, the way that silk was imported into Europe. It also gives its name to the fibers known as “damask”.
6. Syrians love beer
There is evidence showing that beer has been made and drunk in Syria since 2500 BC. Nowadays, two government-owned breweries are the most popular: Al-Shark and Barada.
7. It was in Syria that the Pope visited a mosque
A Pope has only visited a mosque officially once. It’s the case of Pope John Paul II, who visited the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus in 2001.
Umayyad Mosque is considered the fourth holiest place in the world by Muslims, and it is built on the site of a Christian church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, recognized by both Christians and Muslims.
8. Jesus’ language is still spoken in Syria
There are only three places in the world where Western Aramaic is still spoken, all in Syria. This is the language which Jesus Christ spoke. a fun fact about Syria. You can find Aramaic speakers in Maaloula and two nearby villages.
9. One of the best-preserved medieval castles can be found here
After being part of the Ottoman Empire, Syria became a French protectorate, and there is a lot of French influence throughout the country. During the Middle Ages, the Knights Hospitaliers used the Crac des Chevaliers Castle as a base during their crusades against the Muslims, with evidence of this dating back to 1271.
Today, this is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in the world.
10. Syria is also home to the oldest surviving Byzantine church
It isn’t just Muslim architectural gems which can be found in Syria. The Church of Saint Simeon Stylites is the oldest surviving Byzantine church in the world and it dates back to the 5th century. It’s dedicated to a hermit who lived atop a pillar so that he would be alone from the world.
11. There are also some amazing Roman ruins there
Also in Syria, the ancient city of Bosra (which is a UNESCO World Heritage site) is home to a very well-preserved Roman theater along with its stage buildings. It’s a massive theater which could seat 15,000 people and it’s been dated back to the 2nd century, an interesting fact about Syria.
12. Syria has generated a massive refugee crisis
The humanitarian crisis in Syria has unfortunately been the reason for the country being at the top of headlines in recent years. Germany takes the majority of refugees who make it to Europe and, between April 2011 and July 2015, Germany and Serbia received 57% of all Syrian refugee applications in Europe.
13. A lot of high-income countries haven’t helped the Syrian refugee crisis
Most of Syria’s wealthy neighbors such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council) have accepted very few refugees from Syria. They’ve been condemned for this by Amnesty International.
Moreover, there are quite a few rich countries such as Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Russia, who haven’t offered any asylum resettlement places.
14. Syrians are the largest refugee population in the world
As of 2016, the most refugees from any country come from Syria. This makes it the worst refugee situation since the genocide in Rwanda. More than half of the Syrian refugees are under 18 years old.
15. The conflict in Syria has created an awful amount of deaths
Looking at the effects of the Syrian conflict on the ground, every week, over 130 people are killed every day.
Moreover, it’s estimated that over half the population of Syria needs humanitarian assistance, based on the United Nations’ figures.
16. Another marvel of Syria is the Citadel of Aleppo
The fortified medieval palace in the center of Aleppo is another UNESCO World Heritage site of Syria. The hill it’s situated on was inhabited back in 3000 BC, and then by the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks. The construction we can admire today is from the Ayyubid period, one of the oldest and largest castles in the world, a fun Syria fact.
Syria is a land of many contrasts, from wonderful pieces of cultural heritage to devastating scenes of human tragedy in the face of ongoing conflict. I hope that this article on Syria facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!