Traditions & Customs
Male and female visitors can generally wear whatever attire they would normally wear in their home countries. Contrary to what some Westerners may believe, it is possible for women to wear T-shirts and it is not necessary to wear long-sleeved tops unless visiting a religious site. Head covers are recommended when visiting Muslim religious sites. Dress as you would normally dress in the West to visit Christian religious sites, avoid wearing shorts at churches. Many local women dress in Western attire, especially in Christian neighbourhoods. Shorts are common for both men and women. Be mindful of your environment, outside of areas frequented by tourists it is wise to dress in more modest clothing.
Women who wish to attract less attention should wear shirts that reach the elbow, and have no revealing cleavage. T-shirts and jeans are acceptable attire in Damascus.
If you are of European ancestry most Syrians assume that you are a practising Christian. Most Syrians will also be puzzled by a suggestion that you are an atheist, due to the strong influence religion has in Syrian social and cultural life. However, a considerable percentage of the Syrians are not practising Christians or Muslims themselves and do not hide their lack of religious affiliation as Syria is officially a staunchly secular country. The coastal areas are much more progressive when dealing with religion and the same applies to areas of Damascus most frequented by Western tourists such as Bab Touma, the Christian Quarter. The further you travel east, the more conservative people are. In order to avoid any protracted philosophical discussions, it is best to avoid identifying as an atheist or non practising Christian.
Syria views Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights to be illegal. Syrians have negative views of Israel due to this occupation. There is still a small Syrian Jewish community living in Damascus, and they are subject to fierce repression and intimidation by the government. Unless you have a heart for prolonged discussions, avoid any debate about Israel.
It is unwise to make any remarks about President Assad, the government and the Ba'ath Party and such comments may cause alarm. Syria is not a democracy and critical comments regarding the Syrian government are to be avoided.