Syria has a traditional culture with a lengthy history. Family, religion, education, self-discipline, and respect are all valued. Syrians’ appreciation for ancient arts may be seen in dances such as the al-Samah, the Dabkeh in all its variants, and the sword dance. Marriage rituals and childbirth are both occasions for a colorful display of local traditions.
Syria’s literature has contributed to Arabic literature, and the country has a rich history of oral and written poetry. Syrian authors, many of whom emigrated to Egypt, played an important part in the 19th-century nahda, or Arab literary and cultural renaissance. Adonis, Muhammad Maghout, Haidar Haidar, Ghada al-Samman, Nizar Qabbani, and Zakariyya Tamer are among the prominent modern Syrian authors.
Since the 1966 coup, Ba’ath Party control has resulted in increased restrictions. In this setting, the historical fiction genre, pioneered by Nabil Sulayman, Fawwaz Haddad, Khyri al-Dhahabi, and Nihad Siris, is often utilized to express dissent by criticizing the present via a portrayal of the past. Syrian folk tale, a type of historical literature, is infused with magical realism and is also employed as a veiled critique of the present. Salim Barakat, a Syrian émigré residing in Sweden, is a key character in the genre. Science fiction and future utopiae (Nuhad Sharif, Talib Umran) in contemporary Syrian literature may also function as medium of protest.
The Syrian music scene, particularly that of Damascus, has long been regarded as one of the most significant in the Arab world, particularly in the area of classical Arab music. Syria has produced a number of pan-Arab talents, notably Asmahan, Farid al-Atrash, and Lena Chamamyan, a vocalist. Aleppo is well-known for its muwashshah, a kind of Andalous sung poetry popularized by Sabri Moudallal, as well as famous singers such as Sabah Fakhri.
Syria initially received television in 1960, while it was a member of the United Arab Republic, along with Egypt (which got television the same year). It aired in black-and-white until 1976. Syrian soap operas have a significant market share in the eastern Arab world.
Almost all media outlets in Syria are state-owned, and the Ba’ath Party controls virtually all publications. The government run a variety of intelligence organizations, including Shu’bat al-Mukhabarat al-‘Askariyya, which employs a significant number of agents. Many Syrian artists, poets, authors, and activists have been imprisoned during the Syrian Civil War, including renowned cartoonist Akram Raslam.
Football, basketball, swimming, and tennis are the most popular sports in Syria. The fifth and seventh Pan Arab Games were held in Damascus. Many prominent football teams are located in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Latakia, among other cities.
The Syrian national football team plays in Damascus’ Abbasiyyin Stadium. The squad had modest success, qualifying for four Asian Cup tournaments. On November 20, 1949, the squad played its debut international match, losing 7–0 against Turkey. FIFA rated the squad 101st in the world in June 2016.
Syrian cuisine is rich and diverse in its components, and is linked to the areas of Syria where a particular dish originated. Syrian cuisine is mostly composed on foods from the Southern Mediterranean, Greece, and Southwest Asia. Some Syrian foods have also developed from Turkish and French cuisine, such as shish kebab, stuffed zucchini/courgette, and yabra’ (stuffed grape leaves, the term yapra’ is from the Turkish word ‘yaprak’, which means leaf).
Kibbeh, hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh, shawarma, mujaddara, shanklish, pastrma, sujuk, and baklava are the major dishes of Syrian cuisine. Baklava is a honey-soaked filo pastry filled with chopped nuts. Before the main meal, Syrians often offer a variety of appetizers known as meze. Popular hors d’oeuvres include za’atar, minced meat, and cheese manakish. Khubz, an Arabic flatbread, is usually eaten with meze.
The drinks available in Syria differ based on the time of day and the event. Arabic coffee, also known as Turkish coffee, is the most well-known hot beverage, which is often made in the morning for breakfast or in the evening for dinner. It is often given to visitors or as a dessert after a meal. Arak, an alcoholic drink, is also a well-known beverage that is often offered on special occasions. Other Syrian drinks include Ayran, Jallab, White coffee, and Al Shark, a locally produced lager.