• Lebanon!

    Lebanon: House in Byblos. Go Now!

    Lebanon
    This country is home to a wide range of people from conservative Muslims and Christians to liberals who embrace the changing world. Explore Lebanon!

  • Bangladesh!

    Bangladesh: Traditional houses. Go Now!

    Bangladesh
    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

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

  • Mongolia!

    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!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    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!

Social Life in Syria

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

Behavior

How most Syrians behave and the expectations for how foreigners must behave is deeply rooted in the people's Islamic faith, but today there is great freedom on how to act and behave. Sometimes single women travelers are looked at oddly by conservative Muslims and for these same people it is also improper for a man to touch a woman, even holding your spouse's hand or offering to shake the hand of a person who is of the opposite sex can be considered inappropriate to a conservative Muslim. However, in Syria you'll rarely encounter these issues.

On the dietary side, Islamic law forbids pork products and alcohol and these must be avoided when in a Muslim area or when with Muslims. Although many hotels and restaurants offer alcohol, pork is less common, but still available. When in the company of Christians, neither pork nor alcohol is outlawed and there are no dietary restrictions (see our Syria Dining & Food Page), however if in the company of Muslims follow their lead as some do drink alcohol and eat pork.

Finally, avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, religion, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart. Also try to avoid being loud, rude, showing off wealth, or getting noticeably drunk in public.

Dress

The traditional dress in Syria is simple in design, but somewhat ornate in the sense of embroidery and color. For women, this traditional dress includes a shirt called a thob, pants, a hair covering, and perhaps also a coat. The colors and designs of these clothes are quite varied. Men also traditionally wore simply designed, but ornately decorated shirts and coats. For men, the most important part of the dress was the cloak, called an abaye.

Today the dress in Syria has changed as western-styled clothing is very common, especially in more urban settings. Many women also wear western-styled clothing that often times cover the arms and legs, but tight-fitting clothing and showing skins today isn't unheard-of. Some people still wear the traditional dress, especially in small towns and for ceremonial events. In these situations many of the historic designs remain, although now they boast more styles and designs. There is a Christian minority in the country, who generally dresses more liberally.

While the locals dress in various styles, but on the more conservative side, western clothing is the norm in Syria today and as a visitor to the country wearing western clothes is common and acceptable. However, be aware of the differences in dress and be prepared to dress conservatively. Few Syrians will be offended at shorts and t-shirts, but among more conservative Muslims it is best to cover up with long sleeves. Additionally, some women may feel more comfortable covering their hair, but this is not expected.

This page was last updated: December, 2013