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Syria (Arabic: سورية sūriyya or سوريا sūryā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية), is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Palestine to the southwest.
The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, was the seat of the Umayyad Empire and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Empire. Damascus is widely regarded as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Modern Syria was created as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic.
A youtube video/slideshow about Syria can be found here
The name Syria derives from ancient Greek name for Syrians, Σύριοι Syrioi, which the Greeks applied without distinction to the Assyrians. A number of modern scholars argue that the Greek word is traced back to the cognate Ἀσσυρία, Assyria, ultimately derived from the Akkadian Aššur. While others believe that it was derived from Siryon, the name that the Sidonians gave to Mount Hermon.
The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically, Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Arabia to the south and Cilicia to the north, stretching inland to include Mesopotamia, and having an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elder describes as including, from west to east, Commagene, Sophene, and Adiabene.  By Pliny's time, however, this larger Syria had been divided into a number of provinces under the Roman Empire (but politically independent from each other): Judaea, later renamed Palaestina in AD 135 (the region corresponding to modern day Jordan, and Palestinian in the extreme southwest, Phoenicia corresponding to Lebanon, with Damascena to the inland side of Phoenicia, Coele-Syria (or "Hollow Syria") south of the Eleutheris river, and Mesopotamia.
Syria has 14 governorates (or muhafazat - singular: muhafazah): Aleppo, Al Hasakah, Ar Raqqah, As Suwayda, Dara, Damascus, Deir-az-Zur, Hama, Homs, Idlib, Latakia, Quneitra, Rif Dimashq, Tartous.
Golan Heights (occupied by Israel).
Cities and Cities' Groups
Damascus - The Capital, the oldest city alive.
Aleppo - A large souk and ancient citadel with great views.
Hama - Waterwheels
Homs - An ancient city on Orontes River, Crac des Chevaliers, Amazing Green Mountains in Spring.
Latakia - A major port city, Saladin's Castle, Fronloq Forests and Al Samra Beah near Kasab.
Tartus - a historical port city and historical small island called Arwad.
Crac des Chevaliers The archetypal Crusader castle, magnificently preserved and not to be missed.
Palmyra Magnificent ruins of a Roman city, in the middle of the desert. It can be considered the main attraction in Syria.
Apamea A former Roman city which once housed about half a million people. Apamea was hit by an earthquake in the 12th century and much of it was destroyed but it still boasts a long street lined with columns, some of which have twisted fluting.
Saladin's Castle A quiet gem in a valley with pine trees about 37 kms inland from Lattakia.
The Dead Cities A series of towns which once formed part of Antioch. They have long since been abandoned but make an interesting stop for tourists. Al Bara boasts pyramidal tombs and formerly grand archways set on modern farm land. Serjilla is another famous dead city.
Der Mar Musa not a tourist site, but an active christian monastery actively promoting Islamic/Christian dialog. Welcomes Christians and followers of other religious traditions.
Bosra A Roman city in southern Syria close to the Jordan frontier noted for the use of black basalt stones and its well preserved theatre.
last update: 19/12/2009
some info is provided from wikitravel.org
Photos are copywrited to Emad Al Sagheer
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