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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.

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Syria was the name of an ancient territory, a strip of fertile land that lay between the eastern Mediterranean coast and the desert of Northern Arabia.

Indeed, ancient Syria, Greater Syria, or "Suriya," as it was sometimes called, was for most of history synonymous with the Arabian peninsula, encompassing the modern nations of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.

There were manifold challenges for such a government, including the reconciliation of a number of religious groups.

These included the majority Sunni Muslim sect with the two other dominant Muslim groups, the Alawites , an extreme Shi'ite group, and the Druzes, a pre-Muslim sect.

Four districts, Damascus, Hims, Jordan, and Palestine, were created, and relative peace and prosperity, as well as religious toleration, were the hallmark of the Umayyad line, which ruled the region for a century.

The Arabic language permeated the region at this time. This line, which ruled from Baghdad, was less tolerant of religious differences.The colonels took over in 1949 with the failure of a civilian government made up mostly of Sunni landowners. Husni as-Zaim to power, but he was, in turn, soon toppled.A series of such coups followed, as did an abortive union with Egypt from 1958 to 1961.There were also Christians, divided into a half dozen sects, and Jews.Additionally, ethnic and economic-cultural differences had to be dealt with, from peasant to westernized urbanite, and from Arab to Kurd and Turk.However, after partition in the First World War and independence in 1946, the country was confined to its present boundaries.

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