Working in Syria
The field duty stations of UN organisations are based in the capital, Damascus.
Location and geography
Syria is located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey. The country has a 605km border with Iraq, a 76km border with Israel, a 375km border with Jordan, a 375km border with Lebanon and an 822km border with Turkey. Its Mediterranean coastline is 193km long. Syria is primarily semi-arid and a desert plateau.
The coastal region has a Mediterranean climate. The heat is never excessive and there is usually some breeze and humidity. March and April are often cloudy, even rainy months. The Syrian interior has a continental climate. Summers are hot but humidity is low. Nights are often cool throughout the year. Damascus periodically has cold weather with snow or sleet.
The population of Syria is nearly 20 million. Over 90 per cent are Arabs. The rest are Kurds, Armenians, and other minorities.
Syria is a republic under a military-dominated regime.
74 per cent of Syrians are Sunni Muslim. 16 per cent are other Muslim sects (Alawite, Druze). Christians make up 10 per cent of the population. There are small Jewish communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo.
Arabic is the official language. Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic and Circassian are widely understood. Some Syrians speak French and English.
The Syrian pound (SYP) is the official currency.
Syrian time is GMT+2.
Government hospitals and private clinics provide healthcare throughout the country. Private physicians and dentists accept patients by appointment.
Pre-school: There are a number of international nursery schools. These generally operate from 8am – 1pm.
Schools: There are four main international schools available in Damascus, providing national or international curricula in English or French.
Damascus is the main centre of education in Syria. It is home to Damascus University, which is the oldest and by far the largest university in Syria.
The type, quality and cost of accommodation varies according to area and season. Most properties come fully furnished, and tenants are able to negotiate with the landlord for the inclusion of basic kitchen and laundry supplies. Satellite TV is standard in all properties.
Visitors can rent cars, hire taxis or use public transport. Public transport in Damascus depends extensively on minibuses. Regular minibus services link many parts of Damascus, but these are difficult to use without some knowledge of written or spoken Arabic. Long-distance taxis, which one can hire individually or by joining a group, are also available. It is now law for taxi drivers to use the meter, as opposed to negotiating the cost of a fare.
The main airport is Damascus International Airport, approximately 20km from the city centre, with connections to many Asian, Europe, African, and recently, South American cities. Another international airport is in Aleppo.
Internet is becoming increasingly accessible across Syria, particularly in the main cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Lattakia. Only a small number of rental properties and businesses have ADSL internet connections. Otherwise, the most common connection at home is dial-up. An increasing number of cafes, restaurants and hotels have wireless internet connections. Telephone connection is provided through landline and mobile networks.
Living in Damascus
Damascus has a population of 1.6 million. The city lies about 80km inland from the Mediterranean Sea on a 680-metre plateau.
Damascus has a wealth of historical sites dating back to many different periods of the city's history. The Umayyad Mosque is the most famous of the Islamic historic sites.
The ongoing political situation in Syria has affected the economy. The consequent decrease in value of the Syrian pound, increase in cost of basic commodities, and shrinking job market have especially impacted the Palestine refugee community.