7 Things You Didn't Know about Syria
1. It's cherry blossom season in Damascus.
Cherry blossoms are now blooming in rural Damascus. The Ghouta oasis surrounding the city is one of the most fertile areas in the Middle East, and has sustained life for more than 10,000 years.
2. A mosque that used to be a church, and before that, a temple
The Umayyad Mosque, located in the old city of Damascus, was rebuilt on the site of a church dedicated to John the Baptist. Legend has it that the building contains his head, and there is a shrine inside the mosque where both Christians and Muslims worship.
Previously the site hosted a Roman temple to Jupiter and the Aramean god Haddad.
3. Syrian food is the best
What you may think of as Mediterranean or Lebanese food may have its roots in Syria. Think fresh pomegranate juice, stuffed bell peppers, kebab, zucchini in yogurt sauce and other yummy finds.
4. It snows in Syria
In the winter, temperatures in Damascus can get below freezing. In the winter there is usually one or two snowstorms per year.
5. Syria is diverse
Syria is a diverse country. In addition to Muslims of different confessions, including Shia, Alawi and Sunni, there are several different Christian denominations. There are people of Arab descent, descendants of migrants form the Caucasus, Armenians who fled the Ottoman genocide, and a large Kurdish population in the northeast.
With the Iraq war, an estimated one million Iraqis fled to Syria to escape violence in their neighborhoods.
6. Syria has the lowest rate of school enrollment worldwide
According to NGO Save the Children, at least half of Syrian's school-age children are not in school. In some conflict-ridden areas, less than 6% of the children are in school. Before the war, an estimated 90% of children attended school.
7. Over half of Syria's population has had to leave their homes because of violence
Picture half of your city getting up and leaving. Not because they want to. Because they had to. Over half of Syria's population has had to flee homes for other areas in Syria, neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, or further afield in Europe.