Syrian celebrations and national holidays:
- Eid Al Feter – The biggest celebration in Syria is Eid Al Feter which lasts for 3 days after the end of the holy month of Ramadan (a month of fasting for the Muslim majority in Syria)
- Eid Al Adha comes next in importance and it lasts for 4 days, starting during the Muslim pilgrimage season.
- Christmas, New Year and Easter are another 4 important days per year.
During these holidays all business (both public and private sectors) stop completely.
Most people schedule their annual vacations around these holidays
Other public holidays in Syria include Independence Day, the 8th of March Revolution Day and Martyr Day.
Syrian celebrities you should know
- Nizar Kabbani, the most famous Syrian poet whose influence is felt across all Arabic poetry
- Duraid Laham (pronounced as Dor’ed Lahham, nickname Ghawar) comedian
- Yasser Al Azmeh, comedian and director
- George Wassouf, singer
Syrian food: taboos and favourites
Ham is a taboo among the majority Muslims, but it is lawful to buy, sell and eat it. It is most popular in the Christian majority suburbs.All meat in Syria is strictly Halal.
Syrian cuisine is diverse, offering variety to meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans.
- Shakrieh is a popular home-cooked dish of cooked yoghurt with meat and onion
- Fattoush (Salad)
- Mahashi (stuffed squash, eggplant and vine leafs, all filled with rice and meat flavoured with various spices and cooked with tomato sauce)
- Shawarma, Kebab, Hommos and Falafel (street foods)
- Hafez al-Assad – former president
- Fares al-Khoury – political leader and former prime minister 1944 – 1955
- Ahmed Kuftaro – former Grand Mufti of Syria from 1964 till 2004
- Yusuf al-Azmah – former Minister of Defence and the leader of the Legacy Battle of Maysalun against French occupying troops in 1920
- Khalid al-Azm – political leader and former prime minister 1925 – 1963
- Lu’ay al-Atassi – political leader and former president 1963
- “Inshallah” which means literally “in the well of God”. It may indicate genuine interest to help, but probably means that the person is not sure yet whether they can do that thing or not. And could means in other cases when it is said with a sarcastic voice, the exact opposite depending on the context.
- Habibi, which literally means “my love”. However don’t be surprised if you hear the word everywhere and on every occasion. Men can say it to men and women to women and strangers to strangers. The word, in this case, doesn’t mean exactly “my love” but it means something like “my dear” and used to create more easygoing atmosphere.
Landmarks and places of cultural significance
- Mount Qasioun overlooks the city of Damascus and has inspired many songs and poems
- Palmyra (Tadmor in Arabic), ancient city
- Damascus Old City
- The Omawy Sort, sculpture at the corner of Umayyad Square in Damascus
Language skills and foreigners
The main spoken language after Arabic is English. Most Syrians have difficulty communicating in English. However, younger Syrians in certain suburbs are more comfortable speaking English.
Syrian people love to welcome foreigners and show them around the Old City of Damascus. They love also to invite foreigners home to try some traditional Syrian dishes. You just need to be careful when you deal with the opposite sex. You can find yourself in an awkward situation due to cultural and class differences.
Arabic music is the most popular genre in Syria. It often features an instrument called and “Oud” which is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument.
Younger generations are fans of modern international music
Football (soccer) is the most-common and most-played sport. Basketball comes second after football.
Symbols of identity
- Kobkab: a thick wooden footwear with a leather face, which used to be worn in the Turkish bath culture in Syria.
- Tarboosh: a felt dark-red cap for a man; shaped like a flat-topped cone with a tassel that hangs from the crown.
The Kobkab and Tarboosh are both important symbols in Syrian culture. They are less popular today, but can still bring Syria and Damascus to mind.
More conversation starters
Syrian people would love to be asked about their heritage, food, lifestyle and their cities.