Country Listing

Syria Table of Contents


Density, Distribution, and Settlement

Syria is one of the most densely populated countries in the Middle East and in 1986 had an overall average population density of approximately 57 persons per square kilometer. There were considerable regional variations, however. Along Syria's Mediterranean coastline, the population density sometimes exceeded 68 per square kilometer, but along the parallel inland axis between the Jordanian and Turkish borders, and in the vicinity of the Euphrates and Khabur River valleys, population density averaged only about 20 per square kilometer; desert areas were virtually uninhabited.

Urbanization is progressing at a rapid rate, but the explosive urban growth of the 1960s had tapered off by the 1980s. Rural to urban migration, the lower mortality rates of urban groups, and the influx of refugees contributed to precipitous growth in the major cities. However, the administrative incorporation of rural areas adjacent to some urban centers has inflated some growth figures. Between 1960 and 1970, Syria's urban population increased by between 50 and 57 percent. Between 1970 and 1980, cities grew by approximately 40 percent. In 1981, an estimated 47 percent of the population lived in urban areas. Although nearly one in four Syrian citizens lived in either Damascus or Aleppo, a significant part of the urban population was distributed relatively evenly among a half dozen other major cities.

Damascus is growing at an annual rate of 5 percent. The last official census, in 1981, calculated its population at 1.1 million, and its 1986 population was estimated at 1.4 million, 13.2 percent of Syria's population. Aleppo, Syria's second largest city, had a population in 1986 of approximately 1.2 million. Between 1970 and 1981, the population of Damascus increased by 26 percent. However, during the same period, cities in eastern Syria and the coastal region grew at two to three times the rate of Damascus. For example, Ar Raqqah grew by 81 percent, Al Hasakah by 77 percent, and Tartus by 53 percent. Syria appears to have avoided the growth pattern of other developing nations in which the majority of the population is concentrated in one or two cities.

Data as of April 1987