ASyria was ruled by French until its independence in 1946. The country has numbers of ancient and classical sites like cast-aside castles, religious works and fallen-down fortresses left behind by Romans, Egyptian, Turkish and Persian. Syrian people are mainly renowned for their friendliness and hospitality. The word Tafaddal which means welcome is often likely to be heard and it is common that the visitors are invited into people’s homes for food. One of the major events held is Ramadan — a month fasting. Eid al-Fitr — the end of Ramadan with a huge feast in which everyone prays together and visits friends sending gifts — is another major festival. Eid al-Adah — a big feast of the year. This festival marks the time when Muslims should make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The non-religious holidays include Evacuation Day on 17 April and Correctionist Movement Day on 16 November.

Saladin’s Mausoleum where Saladin, one of the great heroes of Arab history is buried, is country’s major attraction. It is built in 1193 and is covered with a red dome. Omayyad Mosque built in 705 is designed to be the greatest ever. It is still famous in Muslim architecture with several gorgeous mosaics and three original minarets despite being caught by the fire in the 19th century. Krak des Chevaliers — a fabulous Crusader castle built and expanded between 1150 and 1250. The castle housed a garrison of 4000. The Archaeological Museum located in Palmyra has a fine collection of artefacts from Mari, Ebla and Ugarit.

The museum has some excellent pieces from Palmyra. Azem Palace built in 1749, which is now the Museum of the Arts and Popular Traditions of Syria. Takiyyeh as-Sulaymaniyyeh — one of the most graceful mosques of Syria. The museum is designed in Ottoman style in 1554. The National Museum which exhibits writings from the 14th century BC that use the world’s first known alphabet, a collection of 13th century Qur’ans, various marble and terracotta statues and a complete room decorated in the style of the 18th century Azem Palace.

Syrian cuisine includes Khobz — unleavened bread, Felafel — deep fried chickpea balls, Shwarma — cooked sliced lamb and Fuul — a paste of beans, garlic and lemon. A Bedouin specialty is Mensaf — a whole lamb including head on of rice and pine nuts. Islamic law forbids pork and alcohol.