SYRIA AT GLANCE
Syrian Is often described as the largest small country in the world because of its wealth of ancient civilizations. Modern man is indebted to this land for much of his thought and learning. Therefore it is properly said that every cultured man belongs to two nations -his own and Syria.
We begin 8000 years ago, with the founding of the world`s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Damascus and Aleppo. Traces of the world`s oldest civilizations are found at the sites of Mari, Ebla, and Ugarit, city-states that conducted trade with ancient Mesopotamia. At Ugarit, archaeologists have discovered a fragment believed to contain the oldest alphabet in the world.
The area comprising modern Syria has witnessed a long succession of historic dynasties: Hellenistic conquerors founded the cities of Latakia and Apamea, the nomadic Nabateans from Petra settled in the south, imperial Romans established their Provincial Arabia, and the Byzantines left a legacy of basilicas throughout the land.
Syria was a major crossroads on great historical trade routes: the Silk Route which connected the great empires of China with the ancient Mediterranean world, and the pilgrimage routes which still connect the Muslim world with Mecca.
An area of intense Christian activity, Syria is home to major sites mentioned in the Bible: the Ananias chapel, St. Paul`s window, and the Street Called Straight. Modern inhabitants of Maalula still speak a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ.
The Umayyads, Islam`s first dynasty, established at Damascus the capital of an empire that extended from Spain to Persia. Major battles of the Crusades were fought on Syrian soil, and imposing Crusader castles still dot the Syrian landscape.
World War One ended 400 years of Ottoman dominance, and began a brief period of French occupation. On April 17, 1946, Syria was first established as an independent nation state.