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  • Overview

    Before the conflict, Syrian hospitality was refreshinglysincere, even by Middle Eastern standards. Typically, visitorswould receive warm greetings begun with the phrase, 'Ahlan waSahlan', meaning 'you are welcome.'

    Essentially, ancient history provided a fascinating backdrop toeveryday life. Five-hundred-year old were a significant part of this experience. A legacyof ancient trade routes, these bustling markets sold everythingfrom handmade chunks of soap and carpets, to sheep's tongues. Onthe streets, donkeys, 1960s American car-taxis, bicycles, minibusesand private jeeps vied for priority, while street vendors andshoe-shiners clogged the sidewalks.

    Damascus was of particular interest to travellers. As one of theoldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, the capitalbrimmed with history. In the north, travellers celebrated the cityof Aleppo for its medieval citadel (now in ruins), elaboratelydecorated (bath houses), and ancient It was also close to the ruins of St Simeon, perhapsone of the world's oldest churches. St Simeon is yet anothercasualty of the war.

    Syria remains an active war zone.

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Syria's climate is largely affected by the desert, with hot,sunny summers (June to August) and cold winters (December toFebruary). Winters are milder along the coast, but wet, andhumidity is higher in summer. Snowfall is common in winter on themountains. Summer temperatures can reach in excess of 95°F (35°C)during the day, but evenings are generally cool. Spring and autumnare the best times to travel, with milder temperatures averaging72°F (22°C) during the day.

    Damascus International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated 18 miles (29km) from the centreof Damascus.
    Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from March toOctober).
    Aleppo International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated seven miles (11km) fromAleppo.
    Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from March toOctober).
    Money:

    The official currency is the Syrian pound (SYP), which isdivided into 100 piastres. Before the war, there were a few ATMs inthe bigger towns, but not all cards were accepted. Credit cardswere not widely used, but American Express and Diners Club were themost readily accepted.

    Language:

    Arabic is the official, and most widely spoken language.English is widely understood by many educated Syrians in the majorcities.

    Electricity:

    Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. The countryuses round two-pin attachment plugs.

    Entry Requirements:

    US nationals require a valid passport and a visa for travel toSyria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documentsrequired for their next destination and sufficient funds to covertheir stay.

    UK nationals require a valid passport and a visa for travel toSyria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documentsrequired for their next destination and sufficient funds to covertheir stay.

    Canadians require a valid passport and a visa for travel toSyria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documentsrequired for their next destination and sufficient funds to covertheir stay.

    Australians require a valid passport and a visa for travel toSyria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documentsrequired for their next destination and sufficient funds to covertheir stay.

    South Africans require a valid passport and a visa for travel toSyria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documentsrequired for their next destination and sufficient funds to covertheir stay.

    Irish nationals require a valid passport and a visa for travelto Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documentsrequired for their next destination and sufficient funds to covertheir stay.

    US nationals require a valid passport and a visa for travel toSyria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documentsrequired for their next destination and sufficient funds to covertheir stay.

    New Zealand nationals require a valid passport and a visa fortravel to Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, alldocuments required for their next destination and sufficient fundsto cover their stay.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    Visitors should be aware that if their passport (or airlineticket) contains an Israeli stamp, or any evidence of an intendedvisit to Israel, entry to Syria will be refused even if inpossession of a valid visa. Visas can only be issued on arrival tothose travelling as part of an organised group if there is noSyrian representation in their home country, but this should beconfirmed in advance. Visas are not required for any travellerwhose passport states that he or she was born in: Algeria, Bahrain,Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar,Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, orYemen. All travellers must hold return or onward tickets, alldocuments required for the next destination and sufficient funds tocover their stay. It is highly recommended that passports have atleast six months validity remaining after your intended date ofdeparture from your travel destination. Immigration officials oftenapply different rules to those stated by travel agents and officialsources.

    Travel Health:

    Prior to the war, malaria was not a health risk in the urbanareas of Syria. But, travellers to El Hassaka in northern Syriawere encouraged to take chloroquine between May and October. Ayellow fever certificate was required by travellers arriving fromcertain countries in Africa or the Americas. Medical treatment wasinexpensive, though standards varied. Doctors were generally wellqualified, and most medical personnel spoke English or French.

    As things stand, the quality of health care in the country hasdeteriorated significantly. The conflict has seen many hospitalsstop operating, as well as shortages of the most basic medicinesand medical supplies. Also, the destruction of infrastructure hasmeant there are frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases acrossthe country.

    Tipping:

    Tipping is a common way of showing appreciation, but the amountis left to the discretion of the giver. Ten percent is standard inbigger restaurants.

    Safety Information:

    Syria is an active conflict zone. As such, no place is free fromthe threat terrorism and violence. Foreign visitors have beentargeted.

    Local Customs:

    Syria is predominantly a Muslim country and visitors shouldrespect religious sensitivity, particularly in the matter of dressand public conduct. Women, in particular, should wear loose fittingclothes that cover most of the body. Headscarves are unnecessaryunless entering mosques. Eating, drinking and smoking in publicduring the holy month of Ramadan should be avoided, as it isforbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal. Thedeath penalty is enforced for drug trafficking.

    Business:

    Dress should be formal, and meetings should be arranged inadvance. Business cards are usually exchanged at meetings. Englishand French are widely spoken in business, but translators can bearranged. Business hours are Saturday to Thursday from about 8.30amto 2.30pm, but Christian businesses open on Fridays and close onSundays.

    Communications:

    The international dialling code for Syria is +963. The outgoingcode is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for theUK). City codes are in use, e.g. (0)11 for Damascus. There is goodmobile phone coverage in urban areas, and many networks haveinternational roaming agreements. Internet access is limited, butis available in Damascus.

    Duty Free:

    Travellers are allowed to import 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or250g tobacco, 1 pint of spirits, perfume for personal use, andgifts to the value of S¤250 without paying customs duty. Firearmsare prohibited. There is no limit on the amount of tobacco orspirits for export.

    Useful Contacts:

    Syria Ministry of Tourism, Damascus: +963 011 221 0122 orwww.syriatourism.org

    Syria Embassies:

    Honorary Consulate for Syria in Montreal, Canada: +1 514 9924432

    Syrian Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa: (+27) 12 342 4701

    Honorary Consulate of the Syrian Arab Republic in Sydney,Australia: +61 2 9787 1504

    Foreign Embassies in Syria :

    U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt (also responsible for Syria): +20 22797 2301

    The Embassy of Canada in Beruit, Lebanon (also responsible forSyria): +961 4 726 700

    South African Embassy, Damascus, Syria: +963 11 6135 1520

    The Embassy of Australia in Amman, Jordan (also responsible forSyria): +962 6 568 8660

    Embassy of Ireland in Cairo, Egypt (also responsible for Syria):+202 2728 7100

    Syria Emergency Numbers : Emergencies: 112 (Police); 110 (Ambulance).
    Syria