Syria is a traditional society with a long cultural history. Importance is placed on family, religion, education and self discipline and respect. The Syrian's taste for the traditional arts is expressed in dances such as the al-Samah, the Dabkes in all their variations and the sword dance. Marriage ceremonies and the birth of children are occasions for the lively demonstration of folk customs.
Traditional Houses of the Old Cities in Damascus, Aleppo and the other Syrian cities are preserved and traditionally the living quarters are arranged around one or more courtyards, typically with a fountain in the middle supplied by spring water, and decorated with citrus trees, grape vines, and flowers.
Outside of larger city areas such as Damascus, Aleppo or Homs, residential areas are often clustered in smaller villages. The buildings themselves are often quite old, passed down to family members over several generations. Residential construction of rough concrete and blockwork is usually unpainted, and the palette of a Syrian village is therefore simple tones of greys and browns.
Syrians have contributed to Arabic literature and music and have a proud tradition of oral and written poetry. Syrian writers, many of whom immigrated to Egypt, played a crucial role in the nahda or Arab literary and cultural revival of the 19th century. Prominent contemporary Syrian writers include, among others, Adonis, Muhammad Maghout, Haidar Haidar, Ghada al-Samman, Nizar Qabbani and Zakariyya Tamer.
Syria's capital and largest city, Damascus, has long been one of the Arab world's centres for cultural and artistic innovation, especially in the field of classical Arab music. Syria has also produced several pan-Arab stars, often in exile, including George Wasoof and Nur Mahana. The city of Aleppo is known for its muwashshah, a form of Andalous sung poetry popularised by Sabri Moudallal, as well as popular stars like Sabah Fakhri. Dabka and other forms of dance music are also popular.
Syria was one of the earliest centres of Christian hymnody, in a repertory known as Syrian chant, which continues to be the liturgical music of some of the various Syrian Christians.