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The Just Student Jobs Country guide for gap year travel in India and the Middle East - Syria


Where to Go - Middle East / India

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Syria

Population: 16,305,659
note: in addition, there are about 38,200 people living in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - 18,200 Arabs (16,500 Druze and 1,700 Alawites) and about 20,000 Israeli settlers (July 2000 est.)

Literacy rate: 70.8%

Life expectancy at birth: male – 67.35yrs, female – 69.64 yrs

Infant mortality rate: 34.86 deaths/1,000 live births

Population growth rate: 2.58%

GDP growth rate: 0%

GDP per capita: £1,670

Unemployment: 12-15%

Inflation: 2.3%

Climate: mostly desert; hot, dry sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically hitting Damascus.

Time: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from March 30 to September 30).

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style 2-pin plugs.

Websites : Tourism site www.syriatourism.org

Also Syria Online has much useful info at http://www.syriaonline.com/

Bearing in mind that Syria is still on the US axis of evil list have a look at the FO site before travelling. Other than that things aren’t too bad.

Syria has a long and distinguished history – read up about the Hittites and the development of civilisations along the Euphrates. Unfortunately, today it is embroiled in middle-eastern politics and has a shaky economy. There is a long-standing disagreement (a polite understatement) with Israel over some territory in the Golan Heights that has been occupied since 1967; the Syrians would like it back, please, but the Israelis decline to oblige. Talks have recently been re-opened on this subject, but no-one is holding their breath.

Syria’s coastal zone benefits from underground springs, which make year-round intensive cultivation possible. In spite of a lot of the country being desert (60%), the Euphrates dam and some irrigation projects have made cultivation of cotton, cereals and fruit possible along the banks of the river. Southern Syria even boasts some pine forests However, the increasing population and the reluctance of the government to do anything about the problem of efficient water distribution and pollution coupled with the weak economy and a poor education sector mean that Syria is not going anywhere fast. Mineral resources include petroleum (though not to the extent of some of its Arab neighbours), natural gas (not all of it produced by politicians), iron ore, asphalt, phosphate rock and limestone. The government is socialist (the Ba’ath party rules) and seems to find it necessary to censor many communications media. 90% of the population is Muslim and 10% Christian; almost 50% are under 15 years of age. Credit cards, cheque books and traveller’s cheques are not used.

Although politics in this region can make life difficult if not outright dangerous, Syria is one of the safer options. Observe the usual customs for an Islamic country. One thing you should watch out for is the khamsin wind at the beginning and end of summer – it can raise temperatures to 49°C. This will, without a doubt, make you wish for a cold beer, which is illegal during Ramadan, as is smoking. This is a poor country, but there is a definitely interesting to visit.

Entry requirements

Get an entrance visa from your local Syrian embassy or consulate.

Vaccinations

No information currently available. Check with your doctor.

Tax and Insurance

No information currently available on tax. Get health insurance.

Gap Year Programmes

Click here to find gap year programmes and placements in Syria

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