Fast facts about Syria

Syria is one of those places that you will hear more and more about as people are having great experiences while visiting the country. Syria used to encompass much of the Eastern Mediterranean region, including Lebanon, Palestain, and Jordan. The capital of Syria is Damascus and it is rumored to be the oldest inhabited city in the world, dating back some 5000 years. With the country’s history of Aramaeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Christian crusaders, Ottomans, French, and finally Syrians, there will never be a shortage of things or places to explore. Today’s Syria is opening up to the outside world and has been expanding its tourism industry. You will find one of the most hospitable people in the world here. You will likely have non-stop invitations to people’s houses for dinner and conversation or to the cafe where you can sit for hours and talk and meet strangers who will treat you as if you were a long-lost cousin coming home. Syria is also one of the least expensive countries in the region and you can get by on a backpacker’s budget if you are strapped for cash. Clothing Most Syrians dress in the “Western” style with a somewhat conservative slant. You should never wear shorts or tank tops and women should try and wear loose fitting clothing. Loose fitting clothing is also more comfortable for walking around and touring, you should always bring a hat and a pair of comfortable walking shoes for your trip. Sunglasses are also important. Drugs & Alcohol As with every country in the Mideast, Syria is tough on drugs and you will be put away for a very long time and be subjected to treatments that you are not used to if you are found with illegal drugs. Alcohol is common throughout the country. Syria makes two popular types of beer, Al-Sharq and Barada, both are about $1-1.50 in restaurants and cheaper from shops or food stands. Barada is the more commonly found beer, and somewhat lighter than Al-Sharq. Syrians will often tell you of how their region of the world invented beer first, thousands of years ago. Araq and Lebanese wine are also commonly imbibed in the country. Money The currency of Syria is the pound and it is broken into 100 piasters. ATMS outside of Damascus are fairly uncommon, so cash is always best stocked up on while in Damascus. Vaccinations None are required for entry into Syria, though some are recommended if you are going to unpopulated regions of the country. Annoyances Syria is a very safe country with hospitable people who are extremely warm and welcoming. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who is especially bothersome or troublesome. If you do, particularly if you are a woman traveling alone, head to the nearest shop and tell the shopkeeper someone is bothering you, you will likely have the whole neighborhood after the offending person. Artistic metalwork The arts of Damascene metallurgy have a centuries-long history. Syria still produces all kinds of metal products that are prized around the world. Damascus swords and knives refer to a process forging two or more metals at a time. This makes multiple laminated layers which are then tempered, shaped and sharpened. These beautifully crafted blades are highly desirable artistic pieces more for display than use today. The distinctive surface patterns on the blades result from carbide-forming elements in the forged metals. Mortars, oil lamps and bowls cast in bronze with copper inlay make more affordable souvenirs or gifts. Production and export of these types of metal goods became popular in the thirteenth century when the center of inlaid metalwork moved to Syria. Boxes, vases and candlesticks manufactured by artisans in Damascus were exported to Europe from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries. Beautiful inlaid metal exports were revived in the late eighteenth century. The items desired had changed so the smiths provided large shell cases inlaid with gold and copper used as holders for umbrellas or walking sticks in European restaurants and tourist hotels. The processes became more specialized. One artisan produced the main piece cast or wrought from bronze or brass. Then another artist who specifically does the decoration performs the inlay metal process in his workshop. Traditional Syrian jewelries were constructed of silver for the royalty. Silver ornamentation changed to gold around the 1940s.Those who weren’t wealthy wore similar items of copper or bronze. Their jewelries rarely held precious stones but many semi-precious ones -cornelian agate turquoise amber–were used to add color. Glass beads of the same or complimentary colors could be added to a main stone in a bracelet or necklace. Syrian metalwork in all its forms still holds a place of esteem in almost every culture around the world. Have a nice trip

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