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    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    Indonesia
    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

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    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

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    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    Mongolia
    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

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    Qatar
    Although little more than a deserted peninsula, Qatar has a thriving culture based on technology and immigration, with Doha (pictured) taking the lead. Explore Qatar!

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    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Syria

WARNING: Syria is currently in civil war, please read this travel warning before going!

Ethnicity

Most of Syria's population is ethnically Arab, which is a group of people originally from the Arabian Peninsula. However, the Arab people from country to country vary ethnically and this is no different in Syria as numerous local variations make the people fairly distinct from other Arab people, yet still closely related to Arabs everywhere. There are also small Kurdish and Armenian populations in Syria. The Armenians are a distinct ethnic group from the nearby Caucus Mountains, while the Kurds tend to be a combination of people, perhaps most closely related to the Persians today.

Language

Arabic is the only official language in Syria. The written form of the language is called Modern Standard Arabic (written in the Arabic script), which gives the language consistency across countries from a written perspective. The spoken dialects of Arabic are so drastic from location to location that Arabic speakers in Syria may not even understand Arabic speakers from a country further away, like Morocco. Obviously the dialect of Arabic in Syria is most closely related to the dialects spoken in nearby countries like Lebanon and Iraq.

Arabic is a Semitic language; other closely related Semitic languages include Amharic (Ethiopia) and Hebrew. More distantly related are languages like Berber (North Africa) as well as historic languages including Phoenician and ancient Egyptian.

There are a large number of minority language speakers, including Kurdish and Armenian speakers. French and English are the most commonly taught second languages in the country although few people are fluent in these languages.

Religion

Nearly three quarters of Syria's population is Sunni Muslim, with another 16% of the population consisting of other Muslim faiths. Of the remaining people, nearly all of them are Christian, including almost all of the ethnic Armenians.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Syria has a wide range of how people adhere to Islam as there is a significant range of both liberal and conservative adherents.

Most Muslims are Sunni, which is the branch of Islam that closely follows the teachings of Muhammad and accepts Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (a ruler of an Islamic community); the Sunni Muslims are sometimes referred to Orthodox. Shia Muslims believe only God can chose who heads the Islamic community and believed it was Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law who was first chosen; Ali became the first Imam (according to Shia Muslims, this term only refers to the leaders of the faith, to Sunni Muslims Imam is often times used in reference to the prayer leader in mosques).

This page was last updated: May, 2014