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Syria

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in the Middle East, bounded to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iraq, to the south-west by Israel and Jordan, and to the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. The modern state of Syria attained independence from the French mandate of Syria in 1936, but can trace its historical roots to the fourth millennium BC. The name Syria comes from the ancient Greek name for the former colonial territories of Assyria such as Canaan and Aram.

Syria is a country in ruins. The place is full of them: cast-aside castles, teetering teatros and fallen-down fortresses. Syria has seen empire builders from Rome, Persia, Egypt, Turkey and Babylon, and every last one of them has left their architectural tag on the place. The vestiges of Roman Palmyra are one of the Middle East's top sites, and Syria also lays claim to the oldest continuously occupied city, the spunkiest Crusader castle, the best preserved Roman theatre and the monument to the silliest martyr.

Admittedly, Syria is still on the US State Department's list of the seven countries sponsoring terrorism, but don't let that put you off. The Syrian government may not be among the world's most benevolent, but the Syrian people are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality. Just keep abreast of world events that may increase tensions and avoid demonstrations and political gatherings.

The escalating war in Israel and the Palestinian Territories has unsettled the whole region and the possibility remains that the conflict may spread. Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon have been exchanging fire with Israeli troops along the border. Although Syria says Lebanon dose not intend to 'open a new front' the situation remains volatile.

Map of Syria