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Syria

Syria

Syria is a state in the Middle East situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The capital city is Damascus. Syria shares its borders with Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The climate in the country is dry continental and on the coast, the climate is Mediterranean subtropical. The best time for visiting Syria is autumn or spring. There is still a war in Syria so do not visit the country without an obvious reason.

Almost all people practice Islam. The official language is Arabic.

The lovers of beach holidays should visit Latakia. They will also enjoy the Burdzh Islam Beach with black volcanic sand, Vadi al-Kandil Beach, and Dzhable Beach.

Those who prefer city entertainments and good shopping will spend a wonderful time in Damascus, the oldest capital city in the world. The Old City, the Salakh-ad-Din’s Mausoleum, the Umayyad Mosque and the largest market on the East Suk-al-Hamidiyya are must-visit places.

You will be impressed by the beauty of such cities as Hama with its huge wooden water wheels Noria and Homs known for its Inb-al-Valida Mosque. In the city of Tartus, there are the ruins of the Tartussky Mother of God Cathedral and a legendary Palmyra, a “dead” city of the ancient period. In the Bukey’s Valley, the tourists can see the old Krak des Chevaliers Castle.

The fans of skiing should visit Bludana, Zabadani, Bukeyna, Salm, Kasab, Slenf, Safite, and Misafa.

Camel safari tours across the Syrian Desert are arranged for the tourists.

Get in

International civil aviation and rail traffic with Syria has been ceased because of the internal conflict in the country.

By Plane

Aeroflot and Syrian Airlines offer the flights from Moscow to Damascus. The flight time is about 3.5 hours. Almost all European airlines have the flights to Syria. Turkish airlines offer the flights to Damascus from Minsk, Kiev, and Almaty.

By Train

The railway route links Aleppo with Istanbul. There is a transit train from Damascus running through Aleppo to Tehran and Baghdad.

Before the war, there was a railway route between Jordan and Damascus.

By Bus

Before the conflict, there was a bus running from Aleppo to Cairo, Beirut, Istanbul, and Baghdad.

Visa

The tourists from Russia and CIS countries must obtain a visa to get to Syria. They can apply to the Consulate of Syria or get a visa at the border.

Due to a tense military and political situation in the country, one can get to Syria only through a land port of entry, but most likely the entry to Syria will be rejected. There is a greater chance to get a visa if there is an invitation from a citizen of Syria.

It usually takes 7-14 working days to get a visa, but currently, it may take longer due to the internal conflict in the country. A visa is issued for 14 days. If there are any Israeli marks in the passport a visa will automatically be rejected.

To receive a visa at the border, the tourists must provide a valid international passport and phone numbers of a Syrian inviting person.

Customs

The import and export of foreign currency are limited to 5.000 US dollars. If the imported sum exceeds 2.000 US dollars it must be declared.

It is strictly prohibited to export the national currency.

The tourists are allowed to bring in:

  • tobacco;
  • alcohol;
  • 30 ml of perfume without a package;
  • personal belongings;
  • gifts the total cost of which should not exceed 250 Syrian pounds.

In addition to general prohibitions, it is not allowed to bring in printed and video materials contradicting the principles of Islam or undermining the public order.

1 item of an electronic device, video, audio and TV equipment is allowed to be imported. The export of gold is limited to 500 grammes.

We do not recommend bringing in things with Israeli symbols.

Cuisine

Traditional Syrian cuisine is known for its diversity and rich tastes.

Among the meat dishes the tourists will be offered Mensaf (whole lamb with nuts and rice), Kabsa (pilaf with meat, spices, and raisins), Dajaj Mahshi (chicken stuffed with rice and nuts), Kastaleta (mutton chops), kebab, and shawarma. Discover an unusual taste of pastrami, mutton with almond, Meshvi (spit-fired mutton), Kibbe (mutton pate with wheat), and lamb patties.

The most popular fish dishes are marinated fish and Samak Meshui (fish roasted over the charcoal).

In Syria, you should definitely try traditional second-course dishes. For example, Makdus (stuffed eggplants), Bulgur (wheat porridge), Baba Ganoush (mashed eggplants with tahini), Falafel (chickpea balls), and Humus. The Syrians commonly serve lentils with fried onions Mujadara, mashed eggplants with yoghurt Mutabbal, pies Barak, and an appetizer Tabbouleh.

We cannot imagine the Syrian cuisine without cheese. The tourists can try Shelal, a salty white cheese made up of strands of cheese woven together; Jibne Khadra, a white hard salty cheese; Turkomani, a soft porous cheese, and Surke, a mature cheese with spices.

The Syrian cuisine can offer a great variety of sweets from Baklava and Kunafu to semolina pudding Mhalabie, sherbet, Oriental sweets, and baked chestnuts.

It is not common to drink alcohol in Syria, but the locals produce anise-based vodka Arak. And grape wines are popular in Christian communities.

The Syrians love strong and sweet Arabic coffee.

The most popular refreshing drinks are Airan (yoghurt beverage mixed with salt) and Jallab (raisin drink).

Money

The national currency in Syria is the Syrian pound (SYP) also known as lira. There are 1 to 1.000 pound banknotes and coins.

The tourists can exchange the currency at banks and in exchange offices of the Commercial Bank of Syria. The hotels also offer currency exchange services. Commission is not charged.

You will not be able to exchange the pounds back to foreign currency.

In Syria, you can pay only with pounds, foreign currency is not accepted.

Credit cards are accepted in large hotels, car renting companies, and shops.

It is a problem to withdraw the money from your card account.

Traveller’s checks are accepted in the offices of the Commercial Bank of Syria, the commission will be charged for the transaction.

Details of interest

So as not to spoil your holidays in Syria, observe these simple safety rules:

  • Never discuss political situation with the Syrians, especially the situation in Hama. Avoid any topics concerning Israel.
  • Do not disturb the praying people and walk only in front of them. When entering a mosque, always take your shoes off.
  • It is prohibited to take pictures of transport and of military objects, palaces, mosques, and public institutions.

Sightseeing in Syria

  • Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world. Before the war started, the tourists could start their journey in the Old City which is a UNESCO site. The tourists could see the legendary Umayyad Mosque, the famous Salakh-ad-Din’s Mausoleum, the Kasr-al-AzemPalace. Among other touristic attractions are the Underground Church of St. Ananias, the Temple of the Virgin, the Tower of Bab-Kisan, the National Museum of Syria, and the Takiya-as-Suleymaniye Mosque. In Damascus, there is a famous Suk-al-Hamidiyya market.
  • Bosra is the capital city of the Roman province Arabia. The city is almost completely built from black basalt. The old City of Bosra is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In your trip to Bosra, you can see the Roman theatre, the Nabatean Gates, and the Triumphal Arch. In the city, there is the Mosque Omar. This is the only mosque of the early Islamic times, which completely preserved its original facade. If you like historical and architectural monuments, you should see the oldest Muslim building in the city, the Mosque Al-Hidr from black basalt.
  • The city of Hama is known for its huge wooden water wheels Noria.
  • Palmira. The archaeological monuments of this dead city are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • The Krak des Chevaliers Castle and the Kaljat-Salakh-ad-Din Castle are under UNESCO protection.
  • In the city of Tartus, there are the ruins of the Tartussky Mother of God Cathedral and the city of crusaders.

Souvenirs in Syria

  • Silver and gold goods, silk scarves, leather goods, wooden and textile crafts in Damascus.
  • Jewellery boxes with Islamic symbols decorated with mother-of-pearl.
  • In Aleppo, the tourists usually buy olive soap.
  • Everywhere in Syria, one can buy coffee with cardamom, local sweets, and spices.