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Syrian Culture: 9 Unique Traditions and Lifestyles 

In the heart of Syria, where the ancient echoes of history interlink with the lively pulse of contemporary life, lie three cultural roots that manifest the heart of a flexible and spirited people. Among these, and interlinked within the very fabric of Syrian society, are 9 unique traditions and lifestyles that paint a colorful picture of the nation’s rich pattern.

In this article picture Aleppo, where Tarab’s melodies interlink tales of joy, nostalgia, and spiritual resonance, binding performers and audiences in a divine hug. In Daraa, henna adorns couples’ hands at the Rasm-e-Heena ceremony, symbolizing unity during familial celebration. Envision the Tawleh, a communal table uniting families and friends through shared meals, laughter, and tradition, overcoming cultural boundaries.

In the variety of Syrian society, these cultural roots run deep, supporting a flexibility that endures despite the chaos of conflict and displacement. They remind us that among adversity, the spirit of Syria lives on, interconnected into the fabric of its traditions, its people, and its constant hope for a brighter tomorrow.

1. Three Main Cultural Roots

1. Tarab

Tarab, an integral part of Syrian culture, represents a significant emotional experience rooted in the fascinating melodies of classical Arabic music. Originating from early Arabic poetry recitations and later associated with Qur’anic recitations, tarab has evolved into a divine art form capable of inducing ecstasy in its listeners. The fusion of music and emotional transformation lies at the heart of tarab, where deep connections are formed between performers and audiences, evoking feelings of joy, nostalgia, and spiritual resonance.

In Syria, particularly in the city of Aleppo, known as the cradle of tarab, this musical tradition holds unmatched respect, rooted in the fabric of daily life and celebrated as a cultural treasure passed down through generations.

In Aleppo, tarab isn’t merely a form of entertainment but a way of life, deeply rooted in the city’s social fabric and cherished as a source of solace and resilience. Performances often take place in intimate settings, where musicians and audiences soak themselves in the emotional tour of tarab, experiencing a state of heightened emotion and connection. Despite the challenges of displacement and conflict, Syria’s rich musical heritage perferences, with efforts to preserve and promote tarab culture both at home and abroad.

As Syrians carry their cultural legacy to new audiences worldwide, tarab serves as an evidence to the enduring power of music to unite, heal, and inspire flexibility in the face of adversity.

2. Henna

Henna, or “حناء” in Arabic, holds significant cultural importance in Syrian society, particularly during celebratory occasions like weddings and religious festivals. Symbolizing beauty, blessings, and hopeful beginnings, henna is widely utilized in various rituals and ceremonies. In Syrian cities, it is commonly applied for dyeing hair and hands for girls, as well as for dyeing beards and covering graying hair for men. Henna parties are also a common tradition at weddings, serving as joyful gatherings where family and friends come together to celebrate.

One of the main wedding rituals in the Daraa governorate involves the application of henna, known as the Rasm-e-Heena ceremony. This pre-wedding event holds great significance for both the bride and groom’s families, often celebrated lavishly or in the company of close relatives and friends. During the henna party, which is marked by food, dancing, and socializing, the highlight is the application of henna on the pinkie fingers of the bride and groom, symbolizing their union and blessings for their future together.

Moreover, henna holds cultural value beyond Syria, with its presence in various Islamic traditions and ceremonies worldwide. It is a customary practice to paint blessings on the skin of brides before Muslim wedding ceremonies, representing purity, prosperity, and good fortune. As demonstrated by the interest in henna painting at cultural events such as the gathering in Hanoi to introduce the social and cultural transformation of Saudi Arabia, henna remains a cherished and respected art form deeply rooted in Islamic culture and tradition.

3. Tawleh

Photo by Element5 Digital 

In Syrian culture, the Tawleh, or dining table, serves as a focal point for communal gatherings where family and friends come together to share meals and develop connections. This tradition develops a sense of togetherness and sociability, emphasizing the importance of shared experiences and social bonds. Often associated with celebratory occasions like weddings and religious festivals, the Tawleh holds a special significance in Syrian cuisine, where a variety of dishes are enjoyed among lively conversation and laughter.

While Tawleh is deeply rooted in Syrian culture, it is also celebrated across the Middle East, with variations in customs and practices. In Lebanon, for instance, Tawleh is not only a symbol of hospitality but also a platform for social interaction and leisure activities. Men often gather to play Tawle, a traditional game, accompanied by black coffee and snacks, developing friendship and friendly competition.

2. Syrian Happiness

The average happiness value for Syria over the specified period highlights a consistent level of contentment among its citizens, despite fluctuations due to various factors. While facing challenges such as political instability and conflict, Syrians exhibit adaptability and maintain a positive outlook on life, reflecting their inner strength and ability to find happiness among adversity. Social and cultural factors, including strong family and community ties, contribute significantly to Syrian happiness, developing a sense of belonging and collective joy through traditions, festivals, and communal gatherings.

Sports and physical activities, particularly football, weightlifting, judo, and karate, play a crucial role in promoting well-being and happiness among Syrians. The widespread interest in sports, coupled with the increasing prevalence of health clubs and gyms in urban areas, signifies a growing trend towards fitness and wellness, reflecting a desire for holistic health among the population.

Cultural practices such as music, dance, storytelling, and cuisine also contribute to Syrian happiness by nourishing a sense of cultural identity and connection to heritage. Acts of kindness, generosity, and hospitality are highly valued in Syrian society, further enhancing feelings of fulfillment and contentment. The spirit of solidarity and mutual support among community members strengthens social bonds and advances a sense of unity, ultimately contributing to higher levels of happiness among individuals in Syrian society.

3. Syrian Social life

Photo by Alexis Brown

Syrian social life revolves around the family, which serves as the cornerstone of daily interactions and gatherings. Regular visits and shared meals among family members are fundamental aspects of Syrian culture, developing strong bonds and a sense of unity within the community. While arranged marriages are becoming less common, parental approval still holds significant power in marital decisions, highlighting the continued influence of tradition and familial ties in Syrian society.

Syria’s traditional values, rooted in its rich cultural history, emphasize the importance of family, religion, education, and respect. Traditional arts, such as the al-Samah, Dabkeh, and sword dances, serve as expressions of Syrian identity and heritage, reflecting the nation’s appreciation for its cultural roots. Moreover, social etiquette dictates respectful behavior, with men standing for women and refraining from swearing or disrespectful actions, such as spitting in the presence of others.

Informal social visits are common, illustrating the warmth and hospitality that characterize Syrian social interactions. The faithfulness to social norms, covering folkways, customs, taboos, laws, and fashion, reinforces societal order and cohesion, ensuring harmony within the community.

4. Syrian Food

Syrian cuisine is characterized by a rich textile of flavors and ingredients, showing the country’s diverse culinary heritage. Staples such as eggplant, zucchini, garlic, and various meats, notably lamb and sheep, form the foundation of many traditional dishes. Sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, lentils, and a variety of vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and vine leaves are commonly used, reflecting the abundance of fresh produce available in the region. Olive oil, lemon juice, mint, pistachios, and honey are frequently incorporated to enhance the flavors of dishes, while fruits add a refreshing touch to meals.

The national dish of Syria, Kibbeh, epitomizes the complexity and versatility of Syrian cuisine. Made from bulgur wheat dough and filled with seasoned ground lamb, Kibbeh comes in various forms, including fried croquettes served as snacks or appetizers. Another notable dish is Shawarma, renowned for its succulent layers of seasoned meat, while Fattoush, a dynamic salad featuring crisp vegetables and toasted pita bread, offers a refreshing attachment to meals. Muhammara, a delectable blend of roasted red peppers, walnuts, and spices, highlights the depth of Syrian flavors, while sweet treats like Baklava and Kunafa add a touch of pleasure to the culinary experience. With its diverse array of dishes, Syrian cuisine charms the senses and celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the region.

5. Syrian Relationships

Photo by Wesley Tingey 

In Syrian culture, relationships are deeply influenced by traditional values and societal expectations. Premarital relationships are strictly prohibited and are uncommon, reflecting the conservative nature of Syrian society. Parents often play a significant role in approving or rejecting potential matches, highlighting the importance of family in shaping romantic connections.

Moreover, Syrian women, particularly those hailing from conflict-affected areas, prioritize feeling protected and accepted by their partners. Given the negative stereotypes surrounding Syrian individuals due to the Migrant Crisis, demonstrating respect and welcoming attitudes can profoundly impact their perception of a potential partner.

When it comes to dating Syrian girls, understanding and respecting cultural nuances are essential for fostering meaningful connections. Syrian girls are known for their enchanting beauty, characterized by mesmerizing eyes, radiant complexions, and luscious locks. Beyond physical attributes, they possess intelligence, resilience, and a sense of humor, making them captivating companions. Despite facing challenges, including misconceptions and stereotypes, Syrian girls value equal partnerships built on mutual respect and support. By holding cultural traditions, challenging stereotypes, and demonstrating genuine interest, individuals can direct the complexities of dating Syrian girls with authenticity and sensitivity.

6. Syrian Parenting

Photo by Some Tale

In Syrian culture, parenting emphasizes obedience, respect for elders, and the transmission of wisdom from one generation to the next. Children are inspired with values of obedience and respect towards their parents, viewing them as sources of guidance and wisdom gained from life experience. Parents play a central role in shaping their children’s behaviors and decisions, with the expectation that children will follow their advice to avoid pitfalls and guide life successfully. This traditional approach to parenting reflects a deep-seated belief in the importance of familial bonds and the wisdom passed down through generations.

Moreover, Syrian parenting prioritizes the collective well-being of the family and community over individual desires. Children are taught to prioritize the needs of the family unit and to contribute to its cohesion and harmony. This emphasis on collective responsibility develops a sense of unity and mutual support among family members, reinforcing the importance of familial ties in Syrian society.

Through this parenting approach, Syrian children learn the value of sacrifice, cooperation, and solidarity, laying the foundation for strong familial relationships and a sense of belonging within the community.

7. Syrian Work Culture

Syrian work culture is characterized by animated business meetings where multiple conversations may occur simultaneously, often leading to interruptions and deviations to unrelated topics. Despite this dynamic environment, patience is key, and individuals are encouraged to interrupt politely to ensure their points are heard. Arriving on time is appreciated, although Syrians may have a more relaxed sense of punctuality themselves.

Upon entering a meeting, it is customary to greet each person individually, starting with the host and then proceeding either from oldest to youngest or from left to right in the room.

Moreover, the exchange of business cards follows specific etiquette in Syrian work culture. When receiving a business card, it is customary to use the right hand and handle the card with care, placing it before you on the table once everyone is seated. Similarly, when presenting your own business card, use your right hand, ensuring that the writing faces the recipient.

Engaging in social conversation before discussing business is common practice, allowing for rapport-building and establishing a comfortable atmosphere for negotiations. To maintain focus during discussions, it’s advisable to sit next to the key decision-maker and address proposals directly to them, minimizing distractions and maximizing clarity in communication.

8. Traditional Clothing

Traditional Syrian clothing reflects a rich textile of cultural heritage and craftsmanship, with distinct styles for both men and women. For women, the traditional attire often consists of long, soft garments known as Thob, adorned with complex crewel in lively colors. These clothes typically feature triangle or squared sleeves and are elegantly embellished with motifs around the neck, chest, waist, sleeves, and sides, showing the skill and artistry of Syrian craftsmanship. The Thob is a symbol of grace and modesty, worn with pride on various occasions to celebrate Syrian cultural identity.

In addition to Thob, traditional Syrian clothing includes clothes worn by both men and women, such as the Keffiyeh. This traditional headscarf, typically made of cotton, serves as a symbol of identity and tradition for Syrians. It is worn in various styles and colors, signifying regional and cultural associations. Furthermore, Chattayum Mundum, worn by Syrian Christian women in Kerala, India, represents a fusion of Syrian and Indian cultural influences. This cohesive white garment, consisting of a blouse (“Chatta”) covering the upper body and a long wraparound garment (“Mundu”) reaching the ankles, reflects the enduring legacy of Syrian traditions shifted to distant lands.

9. Three Cultural Cities

1. Homs

Photo by nour kanaa 

Homs, situated in western Syria, is one of the country’s oldest cities and holds enormous historical significance. Known as the “City of the Dead” due to its extensive necropolis, Homs highlights a rich cultural heritage dating back millennia. The city’s strategic location along trade routes has contributed to its prominence throughout history, with influences from various civilizations evident in its architecture and traditions. Despite being scarred by the conflict that drowned Syria in recent years, Homs remains a resilient city, striving to rebuild and preserve its heritage while developing a sense of community among its diverse population.

2. Latakia

Photo by JOE Planas 

Latakia, a significant Syrian city settled along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, serves as a vital port facilitating trade for Aleppo, the industrial hub of Syria, as well as the Eastern Region of the country. Beyond its role in commerce, the Latakia district contains Syria’s fertile coastal region, renowned for its agricultural productivity. Spanning an area of 887 square miles, this region yields bountiful harvests of tobacco, cotton, cereal grains, and fruits, contributing significantly to Syria’s agricultural output and economy. With its strategic location and agricultural abundance, Latakia plays a crucial role in both the domestic and international spheres, shaping the economic landscape of Syria.

3. Aleppo

Photo by Ahmad Sofi 

Aleppo, an ancient city situated in northwestern Syria, has historically served as a prominent industrial and commercial center. However, its significance extends beyond its economic expertise, as it has been a central location along the Silk Road, facilitating trade between Central Asia and Mesopotamia.

This chaotic period resulted in severe destruction to the city, particularly its Old City, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The crushing urban battle, characterized by its length and destruction, led to the loss of an estimated 33,500 buildings. Despite the irreversible damage, the memory of Aleppo lives on among its residents, who fondly recall it as “Aleppo al Shabaa” or “Aleppo the White,” proof of its once active and magnificent architecture constructed from bright marble.

Key Takings About Syrian Culture

1. Cultural Roots: Syria’s cultural identity is deeply rooted in traditions like Tarab, henna ceremonies, and communal dining rituals, serving as sources of flexibility and connection for Syrians worldwide.

2. Syrian Happiness: Despite challenges, Syrians find happiness through strong family ties, community support, and cultural practices like sports, music, and cuisine, advancing a collective sense of joy and flexibility.

3. Syrian Social Life: Family is central to Syrian social interactions, with traditions like informal visits and shared meals reinforcing societal harmony and belonging, guided by values of respect and hospitality.

4. Syrian Food: Reflecting Syria’s rich culinary heritage, dishes like Kibbeh and Shawarma show the country’s diverse flavors and ingredients, while sweet treats like Baklava add pleasure to the dining experience.

5. Syrian Relationships: Influenced by traditional values, Syrian relationships prioritize family approval and respect, with individuals valuing equal partnerships built on mutual support despite challenges.

6. Syrian Parenting: Syrian parenting emphasizes obedience, respect, and collective well-being, instilling values of sacrifice and solidarity in children, and strengthening familial bonds and community ties.

7. Syrian Work Culture: Characterized by dynamic business meetings and social etiquette, Syrian work culture values patience, respect, and hospitality, fostering effective communication and collaboration.

8. Traditional Clothing: Reflecting Syria’s cultural heritage, traditional clothes like the Thob and Keffiyeh serve as symbols of identity and tradition, bridging connections across generations and regions.

9. Cultural Cities: Despite challenges, cities like Homs, Latakia, and Aleppo represent Syria’s rich cultural history and adaptability, aspiring to preserve heritage and foster community among diversity.