HOME I. Introduction

Syria (Arabic Suriyah), officially Al Jumhuriyah al Arabiyah as Suriyah (Syrian Arab Republic), republic in southwestern Asia, bounded on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iraq, on the south by Jordan and Israel, and on the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. Syria has an area of 185,180 sq km (71,498 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Damascus, also spelled Dimashq.

II. Land and Resources

Syria has an extreme east-to-west distance of about 830 km (about 515 mi) and an extreme north-to-south distance of about 740 km (about 460 mi). Along the Mediterranean coast, which is 193 km (120 mi) long, lies a narrow plain extending inland as far as 32 km (20 mi). Parallel to this plain is the Jabal an Nusayriyah, a narrow range of mountains and hills, south of which, along the border of Syria and Lebanon, are the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, the site of Mount Hermon, the highest point in the country at 2,814 m (9,232 ft). The Anti-Lebanon range tapers off into a hilly region called the Golan Heights (captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War) in the southwestern corner of Syria. Much of the rest of the country consists of a plateau, which is bisected in the northeast by the valley of the Euphrates (known in Syria as Al Furat) River. The plateau area north of the Euphrates is called the plain of Al Jazirah. The semicircular plateau area in the southeastern is in the Syrian Desert.

The Euphrates, the longest river in Syria, flows diagonally across the country from Turkey in the north to Iraq on the east. The second longest river, the Orontes, originates in the Lebanese portion of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and flows north through western Syria to Turkey.

A. Climate

West of the Jabal an Nusayriyah, Syria has a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Yearly rainfall ranges from about 510 to 1,020 mm (about 20 to 40 in) in the coastal area, from about 255 to 510 mm (about 10 to 20 in) between Halab (Aleppo), and Damascus, and from 127 mm (5 in) to less than 25 mm (less than 1 in) in the desert area in the southeast. Regional variations in temperature are comparatively slight. At Halab, in the northwest, the average August temperature is 30°C (86°F) and the average January temperature is 4°C (40°F). At Tudmur, in the central region at the edge of the Syrian Desert, the corresponding temperatures are 31°C (88°F) and 7°C (44°F).

B. Natural Resources

Petroleum, natural gas, phosphate rock, asphalt, and salt are the main Syrian minerals found in sufficiently large quantities for commercial exploitation. Small deposits of coal, iron ore, copper, lead, and gold exist, primarily in mountainous regions. Good farmland is located in the coastal region and in parts of the valleys of the Orontes and Euphrates rivers.

C. Plants and Animals

Syria has comparatively limited areas of abundant natural vegetation. On the whole the nonarable areas are too dry to support extensive plant life, and virtually all of the arable areas have been stripped of natural cover. Along the coast, however, are found some reed grasses, wild flowers, trees, and shrubs, including buckthorn and tamarisk. In the Anti-Lebanon Mountains are forests of Aleppo pine and Syrian and valonia oak.

The mammalian wildlife of Syria includes the antelope, deer, wildcat, porcupine, squirrel, and hare. Birds native to the country include the flamingo, pelican, bustard, ostrich, eagle, and falcon. Lizards and chameleons are found in the desert.