(Al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʽArabīyah as-Sūrīyah). State of Western Asia (185,180 km²). Capital: Damascus. Administrative division: mohafazat districts (14). Population: 21.117.690 residents (2012 estimate). Language: Arabic (official), Aramaic, Armenian, Circassian, Kurdish. Religion: Muslims (Sunni 74%, Shia 12%), Christians 5.5%, Druze 3%, others 5.5%. Monetary unit: Syrian pound (100 piastres). Human Development Index: 0.658 (118th place). Borders: Turkey (N), Iraq (E and SE), Jordan (S) and Israel (and West Bank) and Lebanon (SW), Mediterranean Sea (W). Member of: Arab League, OCI and UN.
The Syrian territory corresponds only in part to ancient, historical Syria, which roughly included the coastal strip occupied by the reliefs of Lebanon and the Antiliban: towards the E in fact it goes, with a characteristic “duck bill”, up to high Mesopotamia, touching the Tigers and including a good part of the middle course of ‘ Euphrates, while W toward its opening to the Mediterranean is limited by the presence of Lebanon and Turkish appendix corresponding to the former sanjakof Alexandretta (passed to Turkey in 1939), so that it overlooks the sea for just 183 km. Structurally, the territory is made up of tabular expanses that represent the northern section of the great Syro-Arabian plateau. On these crystalline, paleozoicsurfaces, which emerge in different parts of the country, sedimentary layers of the Mesozoic overlapped, with a prevalence of Cretaceous sandstones and limestones, which today have a considerable extension, although partly engraved and dismantled by erosion. In the western section, however, the plateaus were affected in the Miocene by fractures and tectonic disturbanceswhich represent the continuation of the cratogenic movements that separated Africa from Asia forming the gigantic Syro-African pit: they were responsible for the formation of the Jebel Aansarîyé (or Alauita Range), which dominates the Syrian coast, and of Al Ghāb, the depression crossed by the Orontes river. Further to the S, the same disturbances originated the chain of Lebanon (included in the homonymous state) and of Anti-Lebanon, of which only the eastern side belongs to Syria. The volcanic manifestations that have formed vast and impressive basaltic surfaces are due to these tectonic dislocationsor reliefs of a certain grandeur, such as the isolated Jabal ad-Durūz, or Gebel Druso (1801 m). Finally, the region on the left of the Euphrates, Al Jazira (the island), constitutes a section of the great sedimentary basin of Iraq; it is a vast plain, formed by powerful sedimentary layers, which almost insensibly declines towards the Taurus massif, whose waters have made the northern part fertile. Although there is no lack of rugged and mountainous areas in western Syria, the territory has substantially flat expanses.
Hydrography is poor. The most important river in the Mediterranean section is the Orontes (al ‘Āṣī) which originates from the chain of Lebanon. Having entered Syria, it collects the waters of Al-Ghāb, transforming the depression into a fertile oasis and flows downstream of Antioch (Antakya) in Turkey. The Euphrates (Al-Furāt) was born in distant Armenia, in Turkey, it plows through the Taurus chain then crossing the innermost section of Syrian territory for over 650 km (where it is enriched by the contribution of the Nahr al-Khābūr) and therefore has a marginal position; however it flows along a thin but long strip of oasis lands which represent an important component of the human geography of Syria. The numerous uidians coming down from the Anti-Lebanon are headed towards the Euphrates and in particular the Uadi el Heil, dotted with wells and an ancient caravan route. The wide beds of the uidians they bring water only after short showers, originating lake mirrors encrusted with saline deposits (Sabkhat Moûh, Sabkhat al-Jabbūl etc.). The Euphrates, subject to a pluvial-nival regime, has considerable floods in the rainy period (December-February) and the melting of snows (April-May), reaching a flow rate of 8500 m 3 / s, against the 150 m 3 / s of lean periods.
According to findjobdescriptions, the landscape of northern inland Syria, in correspondence with the large Taurus massif, on the border with Turkey, is steppe, with poplar-fringed oasis villages along the temporary watercourses; to the S, beyond the Euphrates, there are desert expanses, with hamada of chalky or arenaceous rocks, or with surfaces of lava pebbles. On the slopes of the Antilibano the red soils, of calcareous origin, host a Mediterranean arboreal vegetation (oaks and cultivation plants such as almond trees, carob trees, etc.) which is rich in the Gebel Aansarîyé. Throughout the western section, patches of riparian vegetation, poplars, elms, fruit trees gather along the waterways and irrigation canals, while for the rest there are extensive Mediterranean woody crops, among which olive trees stand out. Wild mammals and reptiles have almost completely disappeared; farm animals such as camels, donkeys, goats, sheep and horses prevail. Agricultural exploitation, land and water pollution due to oil spills contribute to aggravate the problems of desertification and soil erosion. Various protected areas have been established in Syria, covering a total of 0.7% of the territory.