Driving Directions Syria

SYRIA is a country in southwest Asia which borders the Mediterranean Sea in the west. Much of the country consists of arid plateau lands and plains, which grade into the southeast desert.

There is a narrow, fer­tile coastal plain alongside the Mediterranean shore, but this soon gives way to a belt of hills running north to south, which rises to form the high­er Anti-Lebanon Mountains extending across the border with Lebanon. The River Euphrates enters the country from Turkey in the northwest and flows southeastwards into Iraq. In contrast, a second major river, the Orontes, flows northwards from the Anti-Lebanon Mountains across western Syria.

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The country experiences hot, dry summers and relatively cold winters with light to moderate rainfall. The coastal region has a more pleasant climate with mild, moist winters, but most of Syria suffers from water shortages. Natural vegetation is relatively sparse, consisting of low bushes and thin grasses but with forests of Aleppo pine, oak, and firs on the slopes of the mountains. There are relatively few mammal species, but their number include porcupine, deer, and wildcat. The desert regions have specialized wildlife, such as reptiles, which have adapted to the harsh conditions.

Agriculture employs 20 percent of the workforce. Sheep, goats, cattle raising, cotton, barley, wheat, tobacco, grapes, olives, and vegetables are grown, although some land is unused due to lack of irrigation. Syria’s resources include oil, hydroelectric power, and fertile soil. Reserves of petroleum are small compared to neighboring Iraq, but there is enough to make the country self-sufficient and provide three-quarters of its export earnings.

Manufacturing industries such as textiles, leather, chemicals, and cement have developed rapidly in the last 20 years, with the country’s craftsmen producing fine rugs and silk brocades. Foreign revenue is gained from tourism and also from countries that pipe oil through Syria. The country is dependent on the main Arab oil-producing countries for aid.

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The terrain of Syria consists of a relatively narrow series of mountain ranges in the west, which gives way to a broad plateau sloping gently toward the east and bisected by the Euphrates River valley. Syria’s western mountain slopes catch moisture-laden winds from the Mediterranean Sea; thus, they are more fertile and more heavily populated than the eastern slopes, which receive only hot, dry winds blowing across the desert. Northeast of the Euphrates River, which originates in Turkey’s mountains and flows diagonally across Syria into Iraq, is the fertile Al Jazīrah region, watered by the tributaries of the Euphrates.

Syria has a short, narrow coast along the Mediterranean Sea.

Did you know about Syria?

The term “Middle East” was coined by western Europeans as a geographic designation for those countries of southwest Asia and northeast Africa that stretch from the Mediterranean Sea to Pakistan and Afghanistan’s borders, including the Arabian Peninsula. This area was considered the midpoint between Europe and East Asia, usually called the Far East. In a cultural sense, the term sometimes refers to all the countries of that general region that are primarily Islamic. In this sense, the Middle East includes Afghanistan and Pakistan and some of the North African countries that border the Arabian Peninsula.

The northeastern part of Syria lies in the ancient region of Mesopotamia. The name means “between rivers,” and it refers to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers territory. The region extends from the Persian Gulf north to Armenia mountains and the Zagros and Kurdish mountains of Iran and Turkey to the Syrian Desert. This area has been nicknamed “the cradle of civilization” because it was home to Babylon, Sumer, and Assyria’s ancient empires. The Tigris and the Euphrates are also two of the four rivers mentioned in Eden’s biblical story.

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