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Tuesday 24th October
Syria Information - Page 2
History
The ancient cities of Syria were among the very early cities in the world. These included Aleppo, Ebla, Ugarit and Tell Hamoukar. Damascus has been inhabited for over four thousand years and is one of the oldest cities still in existence.

Over the centuries, Syria was has been occupied by many peoples including Canaanites, Assyrians and Persians. In 333 BC Alexander the Great conquered the area. Later Syria became a province of the Roman Empire and then a region of the Byzantine Empire. In 636 Syria became part of an Islamic Empire.

In 1095 Pope Urban II appealed to the kings and noblemen of Europe to join a Crusade to take the city of Jerusalem and the "Holy Land". By the end of the eleventh century Syria was occupied by European Crusaders. It remained under Crusader control until it was freed by Salah al-Din at the end of the twelfth century.

Syria's fate was similar to that of neighbouring countries: Mongol invasions, rule by Mamelukes, and absorption into the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish conquest lasted from 1516 until the First World War (1914-1918).

Syria (and Lebanon) came under a League of Nations Mandate and France was given responsibility for the area.

Syria became independent in 1946 following the Second World War (1939-1945). Two years later, Syria joined Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon in a war against the newly declared State of Israel.

The years following independence marked a period of instability resulting in a number of military coups. For a while (1958-1961) Syria united with Egypt and in 1967 and 1973 Syria fought with Egypt against Israel. In the 1967 War Syria lost the Golan Heights.

In 1990 Syria joined the US led coalition against Iraq.

Economy
The service sector employs the largest percentage of Syria's working population. Agriculture is the second largest employer.

Agricultural products are wheat, barley, lentils, chickpeas, sugar beets, olives, citrus fruits, pears, melons, soft fruits (apricots, plums) and grapes. Cattle, sheep and chickens are reared.

Industries include petroleum, phosphate mining, cement, car assembly, textiles, food processing, beverages and tobacco.

Historic sites dating back to the beginning of civilisation are promoted by the tourist industry. (2011)

Arts
Excavations, such as those at Tell Hamoukar, have uncovered examples of fine pottery and decorative seals which were used over five thousand years ago. Ancient sculptures can be seen in Syria's museums.

Traditional crafts include silk weaving, silver work and glass blowing. It is thought that glass was first made in Syria around three thousand years ago.

One of the earliest alphabets originated in Syria. Libraries of information have been found in the ruins of Syria's ancient cities.

Today Syria hosts many events in art, music, dance and other international cultural events. The Roman amphitheatre in Bosra is the venue of the international Bosra Festival.

Sport
Syria has national teams for football and basketball. The Army Club is one of Syria's most successful football teams.

Syria won its first gold medal in the Olympic Games in 1996 when Ghada Shouaa won the heptathlon, a track and field event.

Holidays
Syria is a Muslim country and Islamic holy days are observed. Independence Day is commemorated (17 April 1946).

News
News from Syria is available in Newslink.

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