Syria has been an independent state since 1946, has an area of 71,500 square miles, and is just under 1.5 times the size of England. The country has a 110-mile long coastline along the Mediterranean Sea and a population of 19 million. The capital, Damascus, is home to 4 million, the second largest city, Aleppo, has around 3 million. Syria shares its border with Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. The terrain in Syria is characterised by intense desert and mountainous landscapes. In the extensive desert plains in the east, you can find picturesque oases, although these become scarcer the further east you go. Syria’s coastal plains are green, and you can find farmland and fruit plantations here. Pine, olive, cedar, oak and cypress trees grow, although most were recently planted. In spring, the rainy areas in western Syria are covered with flowers such as blue lupines, red hibiscuses, pink cuckoo flowers and purple sea holly. Cyclamens begin to grow in December. Oleander bushes grow abundantly in the dried-up riverbeds. The wildlife is limited, although some animals still live around the oases in the east, such as gazelles, oryx and desert foxes. You needn’t wonder which animal you will most encounter, as this will be the dromedary (one-humped camel). Nature reserves are non-existent in Syria.