The ancient and predominantly Christian village of
Maalula is located in the eastern slopes of Al-Qalamoun
mountains (Anti-Lebanon mountains), southern
Syria about 50 km north of
Damascus. It is situated at an altitude
of more than 1500 metres.
The houses are built on the slopes of a huge cirque of rocks that
encloses the village; the houses are constructed of stones with
flat beam roofs. Most of the houses have blue plaster on the
outside, a Christian custom.
There are two monasteries here; Saint Sergius (Sarkis)
and Saint Thecla (Tekla). Most of the inhabitants are
Greek-Catholic and have preserved in their spoken language a
dialect of Syriac (Aramaic), the language spoken by Christ.
Two neighbouring villages, Jabaadin and Najaa also speak the same
language. The word Maalula means 'entrance' in Aramaic.
The Catholic monastery of Saint Sarkis (St. Sergius) has inside
it a small Byzantine church whose altar has raised sides, like the
pagan altars of Roman templeshas; This Byzantine church and
Byzantine-period tombs are cut into the rock behind.
The Orthodox monastery, Mar Takla (St. Thecla), has a modern
Relics, boulders and caverns carved in the rocks relate the
history of thousands of years from the Aramaean era, when
Maalula was part of the kingdom of Homs.
During the Roman era it was named Seliocopolis. Maalula played an
important religious role during the Byzantine era, as it became at
the fourth century A.D. the centre of an episcopate that lasted
until the 17th century.
The Aramic language witch is still spoken in Maalula is an
extremely ancient language current in the Middle east during the
first millennium before Christ. Two books of the Bible, Daniel and
Esdras, were written in Western Aramaic. It was also the language
of Christ. The Lord's Prayer, the prayer of Christians all over
the world, was first spoken in Aramaic; the monks of Mar Sarkis
have made a recording of it in this language.
Attractions and historical building
Even though the majority of its buildings are modern, Maalulla is
a beautiful place with curious wind-eroded rocks at the top end of
the village and a gentle orchard-filled valley at the other.
There's a remarkably sleepy air to the place which is a pleasant
break from the frenetic pace and crowds of
- One of the most famous landmarks is the monastery of St
Tekla (Thecla). according to legend she was an early convert
to Christianity and a follower of St Paul who broke off her
engagement to devote herself to god. Her vengeful fiancé
tried to kill her by various means, all of which were
thwarted by divine intervention. Eventually she is supposed to
have hidden away in a grotto in the cliff around which the modern
convent was built.
The monastery of St Tekla is a blessed place. People from
different religions go there to gain blessings and to make
offerings. Inside lies the remains of St. Tekla.
- Another landmark in Maalula is Mar Sarkis (Sergius)
Monastery. It was built in the fourth century on the remains
of a pagan temple. It was named after St. Sarkis, a Syrian knight
who fell in the reign of king Maximanus in 297.
An excursion to Maaloula can be easily combined with a visit to
another Christian site, the convent at Seidnaya, 30 kilometres to
the south-west, towards Damascus