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Ethnically, the country is comprised of an Arab majority with a large number of Kurds as a second ethnic group.
Other groups include Armenians, Turkmen, and Assyrians.
Modern Syria is an Arab republic of southwest Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east and southeast, Jordan to the south, and by Israel and Lebanon to the southwest.
A small strip of Syria also lies along the Mediterranean Sea.
A brief period of Egyptian domination was again replaced by Ottoman rule in 1840, but tensions were growing between the religious and ethnic groups of the region.
Italian, French, and English merchants began to settle in the region.
Saladin took Damascus in 1174, effectively expelling the Crusaders from their occupied positions, and established centers of learning, as well as built trading centers and a new land system that stimulated economic life.