Syria Holidays Factfile
Population: 19.3 million
Language: Arabic. English is widely spoken.
Time: GMT + 2
International dialling code: +963
Visas: Required by UK citizens.
Country Representative in UK: Syrian Embassy, 8 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PH. Tel: 0207 245 9012. website: www.syremb.com.
Voltage: 220 AC, 50 Hz.
Money: Syrian Pound (S£) divided into 100 piastres. For the up-to-date exchange rate please visit the MSN Money website
Vaccinations: There are no mandatory vaccinations required. Recommended: BCG, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, Rabies, Typhoid, Yellow Fever. For up-to-date information please consult your local G.P. or visit the MASTA website
Guidebook: The Bradt Guide to Syria
Food and Drink: Lebanese cuisine has had a huge influence on Syrian food, with meals consisting of a main dish supplemented by a number of appetisers, such as tahina (sesame seed puree) or moutabbal (grilled mashed eggplant with pomegranate juice and sesame seed oil) with bread and salads. The traditional Bedouin ‘mensef’ is popular and consists of lamb (or goat) cooked with herbs in a yoghurt sauce with rice and bread. Meat stews and kebabs are also common, as are snacks such as felafel (deep fried ball of ground beans or chick peas mostly in bread with salad) and shawarma (lamb, salad, garlic sauce and tahina wrapped in flat bread).
Drinking tea is very popular in Syria, as elsewhere in the Middle East, especially if you are shopping or meeting people for the first time. Mint or thyme is often used to flavour the tea. Coffee is also widely drunk, usually served Turkish style - very strong and sweet. Freshly squeezed fruit juice is readily available from street stalls and kiosks. The hotels used by World Discovery all serve alcoholic drinks (although during Ramadan, some hotels will close their bars). Wine is often available (mainly imported from Lebanon) and local beer is of a reasonable quality. Araq – a strong aniseed flavoured liqueur similar to the Greek ouzo – is the favoured local spirit.