is in southwest Asia in the heart of the Middle East. The Mediterranean
coastal plain is backed by a low range of hills, followed by a vast
interior desert plateau. Most people live near the coast or near the
Euphrates River—which brings life to the desert plateau. Damascus,
capital of this desert country, was built on an oasis and is said to be
the world's oldest continuously inhabited settlement.Syrians are
mostly Arab, although about 9 percent are Kurds—living mostly in the
northeast corner of Syria. Syria's population is about 90 percent
Muslim, mostly Sunni—but the Alawite minority (12 percent of Syrians)
is politically dominant. The Alawite-controlled Baath (Renaissance)
Party has ruled Syria since 1963.Part of the Ottoman Empire for
four centuries, Syria came under French mandate in 1920 and gained
independence in 1946. Dreams of a "Greater Syria" were dashed when the
smaller states of Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan were created by
Britain and France in the 1920s. Together with Egypt, it formed the
United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1961. Syria has fought four wars
with Israel—losing the Golan Heights in 1967. Recovering the Golan has
been a matter of fierce national pride for Syrians.The 30-year
rule of Hafez al-Assad was marked by authoritarian government, an
anti-Israeli policy, and military intervention in Lebanon. Some fear
that Syria's 16,000 troops in Lebanon are being used to create Greater
Syria. Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father as president in 2000 and
continues his father's harsh policies.
Industry: petroleum, textiles, food processing, beverages.
Agriculture: wheat, barley, cotton, lentils; beef.
Exports: crude oil, petroleum products, fruits and vegetables, cotton fiber, clothing.
Text source: [i]National Geographic Atlas of the World[/i], Eighth Edition, 2004
185,180 square kilometers
(71,498 square miles)
Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, French, English
Sunni, Alawite, Druze and other Muslim sects, Christian
GDP per Capita