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5 interesting facts about Syria

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Syria is square in the sights of the world right now, thanks to the recent chemical attacks that have the U.S. wondering if it should step back into another Middle East conflict.

Though there are any number of opinions on the subject, one thing we can all agree on is that the history of this country is a long and fascinating one, as LiveScience’s Tia Ghose discovered when she cracked open the textbook of its past.

1. The Syrians

About 23 million people live in Syria, and the majority of those people, about 74 percent, are Sunni Muslims. Another 12 percent of the population is made up of Alawites, a sect of Shia Muslims. Despite being a minority, Alawites have dominated the government for decades; President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite. About 10 percent of the population is Christian, and another small percentage is made up of Druze, a mystical religious sect with elements common to several monotheistic religions.

Whereas most people in Syria speak Arabic, about 9 percent of the population — mostly in the northeast — speak Kurdish.

2. Ancient history

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. A vast trove of 20,000 cuneiform tablets unearthed in the city provided an unprecedented look at everyday life in Mesopotamia at the time. Since then, it has been part of the major empires of history: At various times, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Macedonians and Romans ruled the region.

Full story at LiveScience.

Ancient history, modern conflict.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Bernard Gagnon

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