If you Google Syria, you will only come across articles about the ongoing war. If you ask anyone about Syria, they will tell you about the humanitarian crisis and the people dying in the country. Many people have been killed, many more have become jobless and refugees. This constant struggle for religion and power has to stop before complete destruction.
Syria is a country in southwest Asia in the heart of the Middle East. It is bordered by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 hundred years, until it came under French mandate in 1920 and then gained independence in 1946. From the earliest settlements to the current displacement of its people, Syria has seen a lot. Hopefully, the war ends soon and the country gets to see the peace and calm it deserves.
Few facts about Syria
1. The Syrian war started in 2011, when protestors took to the streets demanding the resignation of President Assad. The government tried to crush the protest but the numbers increased and the protestors took up arms to defend themselves. Violence escalated, other countries came into the picture and a civil war started. Today the war has become very complicated as various groups and foreign backers are fighting for control, including Assad’s regime (which is backed by Russia and Iran), the Free Syrian Army (which has received some Western support), and a host of other militias, including Islamists such as ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and Kurdish forces.
2. About 13.5 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes due to current crisis. Five million have fled to neighbouring countries.
3. Over 75% of the people who have fled Syria since 2011 are women and children. As of 2016, Syrians are the largest refugee population in the world.
4. Turkey has the maximum number of Syrian refugees (around 3.6 million). Lebanon has 1.1 million Syrian refugees, which constitutes about 1 in 6 people in the country. Egypt and Jordan are also hosting many refugees.
About 10% of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe, which has caused political bickering about which country should help them. For now, Germany takes most of the refugees entering Europe.
There are still a lot of people waiting for resettlement. The people who are affected the most during any war are the ones who are least responsible for it. These are the common people who want to live in peace – on their lands – with their families.
5. According to the analysis of satellite images, more than 80% of the lights have gone out across Syria. This is partly because people are fleeing and partly because the infrastructure has completely collapsed.
6. The Syrian civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis in the 21st century. According to the UN, over half of Syria’s population needs urgent humanitarian assistance.
Approximately 60% of Syrians are jobless. More than half of the country live in extreme poverty and cannot even afford the basics.
7. Over 400,000 people have died in Syria since the war has started. Life expectancy has fallen by 20 years in the country since the beginning of the war.
8. There is a village named Jinwar which means “women’s land” and it is home to more than 30 women and children. Most of these women were widowed during the war. The village welcomes women and children regardless of religion, ethnicity, and political views. The women have built mud brick homes where they live together. They grow their own vegetables and also sell handicrafts/baked goods to nearby villages.
9. Do you know that Steve Jobs is half Syrian? Not many people know that Jobs was adopted and his biological father was a political migrant from Syria.
Celebrities with Syrian roots include Jerry Seinfeld, Paula Abdul, F. Murray Abraham and hockey player Brandon Saad.
10. Syria’s capital, Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. The name of Damascus was first recorded by the ancient Egyptians in the 15th century BC. Carbon dating suggests the site has been occupied as far back as 6300 BC.
In the Middle Ages, Damascus was a major point on the silk road from Asia and gave the name to the woven fibre known as damask. At various times, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Macedonians and Romans ruled the region but the city survived.
11. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is one of the oldest and most famous mosques in the world. It is also considered by many Muslims to be the 4th holiest place in the world.
12. The Royal Library of the ancient Kingdom of Ebla is considered to be the oldest library in the world. It was discovered by Italian archaeologists in 1974. They found about 2000 tablets which were arranged and even classified purposely. The library dates back to 2500-2250 BC.
13. Dura-Europos Church in Syria is likely to be the oldest Christian Church in existence. A team of French and American archaeologists excavated the site during 1920s and 1930s. Today however the place remains in ruins and not accessible as it is located in an ISIS occupied area.
14. The situation in Syria is worsening with each passing day. Human trafficking is flourishing where children are forcibly recruited to fight for various military groups, and women are trafficked for exploitative marriages or prostitution.
15. There is a small town in Syria where Western Aramaic is spoken, which was the language spoken by Jesus Christ. Maaloula and two nearby villages are the only places on this planet to speak this ancient language.
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Syria:
Disclaimer: OHOT doesn’t recommend travelling to Syria till the war ends and peace prevails. But we would still like to share some of the beautiful places in this country
The Crac des Chevaliers is a Crusader castle in Syria and is one of the most well-preserved and important medieval castles in the world. The castle was built in the 11th century and stands on a hill at 2200 ft.
Damascus: Visit the ancient city and the one of the oldest capitals in the world – Damascus. The city is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city and therefore will give you a lot of opportunity to explore. Visit the impressive Umayyad Mosque, walk around the big Damascus souk and search for the many underground churches. In the evenings, sit in a good rooftop restaurant and enjoy the views of the city.
Bosra: There is an incredibly well preserved Roman theater which gives a tough competition to the Colosseum in Rome. Built in the 2nd century AD, the theater can seat up to 15,000 people. Behind the Amphitheater you will find the ruins of the old city of Bosra dating back to 200 AD.
Visa Process: Check https://www.onhisowntrip.com/visa-syria/ for details