POPULATION: 17 millions (4,8 millions have fled to neighbouring countries Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan).

CAPITAL: Damascus

GDP per capita: $ 5,100

LANGUAGE: Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, (French, English).

RELIGION: Muslim 87% (Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian 10% (Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian), Druze 3%, Jewish (few remaining in Damascus and Aleppo).

The earliest account of a mermaid is the story of the Syrian goddess Atargatis who became half-fish after accidentally killing a shepherd she loved.

The Golden (or Syrian) hamster was discovered in Aleppo, Syria, in 1930. All the hamsters kept as pets today are descendants of hamsters found in Syria.

Syria has been a cradle of civilization for at least 10.000 years. It was home to the ancient majestic city of Ebla, which flourished from 1800 B.C. to 1650 B.C.