Official Name: Syrian Arab Republic (Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah)
Location: Syria is located in the Middle East (about the 35th parallel, North). It has a short stretch of Mediterranean coastline, but is primarily an inland country. It touches Jordan to the south, Iraq to the east, Israel and Lebanon to the west, and Turkey to the north.
Land Area: 184,050 sq km (71,043 sq mi).
Coast: 193 km (120 mi) of Mediterranean coast.
Climate: Coastal Syria has a Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Average coastal temperatures are 29°C (84°F) in summer and 10°C (50°F) in winter. Inland, the climate is drier and harsher.
Population: Over 16 million inhabitants, of which 41% are younger than 15 years old.
Language: Arabic is the official language of Syria, but Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, and French are widely understood.
Religion: The vast majority of Syrians are Muslim (mostly Sunni). There are small Christian, Jewish and other religious minorities communities, as well.
Government: Syria is a republic headed by a president, who is elected to a seven-year term of office (next election in 2007) and must be a Muslim. The Executive Branch consists of the president and a prime minister and cabinet appointed by the president. The Legislative Branch of the government consists of the 250-member popularly elected People's Council (Majlis al-shaab). The Judicial Branch consists of the Supreme Constitutional Court, whose justices are appointed by the president; the High Judicial Council; the Court of Cassation; and State Security Courts.
Executive (President or King): President Bashar al-Assad
Currency: The Syrian currency is the Syrian pound (£S), which is divided into 100 piastres. The exchange rate was approximately 41.9 Syrian pounds (£S) for every $1 in January of 1997 (the time of the BikeAbout journey), but the official fixed exchange rate is 11.225 Syrian pounds (£S) for every $1.
Find out how many Syrian pounds there are in your local currency!
Resources and Industry: Petroleum is Syria's primary industry, with agricultural products (including cotton, olives, tobacco, and citrus fruits) and textiles (cotton and silk) making up much of the rest of its economic base. Farming is concentrated in the Mediterranean coastal region of Syria, since much of the Syria inland is unable to support significant agricultural production.
Transport: 36,377 km (22,590 mi) of road; 2,750 km (1,708 mi) of train tracks.
Electric Current: 220 volts
Time Zone: GMT +2 hours
A Brief History of Syria
Sources: CIA World Factbook 2000, ArabNet, Lonely Planet
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