Customs and traditions
The family is of great importance both in
private and in politics. The country's leaders both
within the government and on the opposition side prefer
to surround themselves with people they trust, often
drawn from their own families or families, and at the
next level from their own home region, the clan (in the
areas where they exist), or the religious grouping.
Usually men and women spend time separately, with the
exception of special family gatherings. Greetings often
take the form of a ritual, when you shake hands for a
long time while hearing about the other's condition, how
it is with health, family, house, cattle etc. Often you
also hug each other and kiss each other on the cheek.
Especially polite and reverent is to put your right hand
to the heart when you meet someone. Men are not bothered
to walk hand in hand with male friends, however,
physical contact between people of different genders is
Overview of the capital city of Syria, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
How strictly religious traditions about gender
segregation are applied, for example, varies greatly
from area to area and between different social groups.
Some rebel groups govern according to a strictly
fundamentalist interpretation of the Qur'an and demand,
for example, that women be concealed.
It is not obvious that a man can greet a woman by
taking her hand, especially if she belongs to a Muslim
family. In modern business meetings it is common, but in
private contexts, the man should wait for the woman to
stretch out her hand, otherwise just bow down and
Business meetings require dark suits for men, and for
women, skirts that extend below the knees and full
sleeves apply in all contexts. Even when visiting Syrian
homes one should dress properly. Bringing a gift is
It is advisable to learn at least some courtesy
phrases in Arabic. Religion can be a sensitive issue,
not least since the outbreak of the war in 2011, and it
is appropriate to show respect and discretion. In
mosques you cannot wear shoes or revealing clothing.
Military and religious issues were sensitive even before
the war. Photograph nothing that may have military
attachment. Nor did women cover up without explicit
It is currently very dangerous to travel to Syria and
the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against
all visits. There is a great risk of violence,
kidnappings and assaults on travelers, especially in
opposition-controlled areas where many different armed
groups are moving, including criminal gangs and
extremist groups actively seeking foreign hostages.
Travel to areas controlled by the Syrian government
requires a visa, which can be difficult to obtain. It is
illegal to enter Syria for anyone who has an Israeli
stamp in the passport.
The autonomous Kurdish areas of northern Syria now
manage their own border guard and to be able to enter
there requires permission from their leadership.
Most Syrians are Muslims and celebrate the same
feasts as Muslims everywhere. The Islamic calendar is
based on the lunar movements, and the religious year is
eleven days shorter than the year in modern Western
times. The holidays therefore fall a little earlier from
year to year.
This year's most important weekend is id al-fitr,
which ends the fasting month of Ramadan. The celebration
can last for several days but the first day is the most
important. It can be compared to Christmas Eve in
Christian countries, a distinct family holiday when
eating the best household can be able to give and give
each other gifts.
An important religious weekend is also id al-adha,
the sacrificial feast, which is celebrated in memory of
how Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son to show
his reverence to God but was told by God to sacrifice a
baggage instead. Traditionally, Muslims on this day have
sacrificed an animal and donated one third of the meat
to the poor, one third to friends and neighbors and made
a feast for their own family of the rest. Id al-adha is
celebrated in connection with the traditional pilgrimage
to Mecca and Medina, approximately 70 days after id al-fitr.
Among the non-religious weekends in the
government-controlled parts of Syria are the
Revolutionary Day on March 8 (celebrating the takeover
of the Baath Party in 1963), the National Day on April
17 (in memory of the French exile in 1946) and the
Martyrs Day on May 6 (in memory of Syrian nationalists
who executed by the Turks in 1916). In
opposition-controlled areas, celebrations no longer
associated with the rule of the Baath Party or the Assad
family are no longer celebrated.