Syrian Arab Republic Country Profile
Damascus — The capital and the oldest city alive
Aleppo — a large souk and ancient citadel with great views
Deir-az-Zur — a desert town on the Euphrates River bank
Hama — waterwheels
Homs — an ancient city by the Orontes river, amazing green mountains in Spring
Latakia — A major port city, Saladin's Castle, Fronloq Forests and Al Samra Beach near Kasab
Tartous — a historical port city and historical small island called Arwad
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.
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
Crac des Chevaliers — the archetypal Crusader castle, magnificently preserved and not to be missed
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 dialogue. Welcomes Christians and followers of other religious traditions. It is 80 km north of Damascus.
Saladin's Castle — a quiet gem in a valley with pine trees about 37 km inland from Latakia
Salamieh — Salamiyah is an ancient city which was first known during Babylonian times in 3500 BC; contain Shmemis castle, Greek temple of Zeus, The old Hammam,the old Walls,Remains of Roman canals
Arabic is the official language. It is always a good idea to know some words ("hello", "thank you" etc.). A surprising number of people speak at least (very) rudimentary English. It would however be worth your while to learn basic numbers in Arabic in order to negotiate taxi fares. Personnel working with foreign tourists (like tourist hotels, restaurants, tour guides, etc.), generally can communicate reasonably well in English.
Due to the general lack of ability by the public at large to communicate in English beyond basic phrases, Syria is a great place to force yourself to learn Arabic through immersion, should you wish to improve your Arabic skill.
Falafel, deep-fried chickpea patties, are available for 15 to 30 SP. Another popular vegetarian meal is Foul. Don't let the name put you off. It's actually pronounced “fool” and this fava bean paste – topped off with cumin, paprika and olive oil and served with flatbread, fresh mint and onion – is not only tasty but satisfying and filling.
You may also be able to order a salad of Fatoush with your soup. Chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and herbs are mixed together in a dressing and finished off with a sprinkling of fried bread that resembles croutons. Cheese may also be grated on top.
Meat wraps such as shwarma cost 35 to 50 SP. A half-chicken with bread and mayonnaise dip to take away costs 175 SP.
Lunch or dinner in a fair restaurant costs 450 SP. An expensive restaurant lunch or dinner will run about 1000 SP.
The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 18.
Generally you can drink water from the tap, it is extremely safe, but if you're unsure ask the locals first. This water is free compared to bottled water, which comes at anywhere between 15-25 Syrian Pound for 1.5 litres.
Fresh fruit juices are available from street stalls in most towns. A large glass of mixed juice (usually banana, orange juice and a few exotic fruits like pomegranate) costs 40-50 SP.
Beer is cheap, costing from 35 SP in a shop and anywhere from 50 to 100 SP in most budget accommodation and local bars for a half litre bottle or can. Syrian wine can be found starting at about 150 SP and Lebanese and French wines are also available in a higher price bracket, starting at 350-400 SP.
Tea is served in a little glass "Earl Grey style" without milk, sweetened with sugar. Add the sugar yourself as the Syrians have a collective sweet tooth and will heap it in.