Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Discovering Magical Ma'aloula

Ma'aloula is one of Syria's best kept secret. We have never heard about it until a shopkeeper in Souq Hamidiyyah recommended we visit it.

Ma'aloula is located about 50 km from Damascus, and is the only place on earth where the people speak Aramic - the language that Jesus Christ spoke. Cool, huh?

Our visit to Ma'aloula began at the Greek Catholic Convent of St Sergius:

The Greek Catholic Church of St Sergius was built in the 4th Century, making it one of the oldest churches in Christendom. Even typing it out makes me feel tingly and all.

Photos are not allowed inside the church, so I'll show you the courtyard instead:

Courtyard in the middle of the convent.

There is also a cafe and souvenir shop to quench your thirst, fill your tummies and satisfy your shopping addiction:

I went to the back of the convent and couldn't resist snapping this shot because I like the sun rays piercing from the sky:

Like God sending a message to the people :-)

After the convent, we walked down the road and I snapped this magnificent shot:

This shot is one of my fav travel photo of all time.

Then we reached a signage in the road:

... and we stopped by the Temple of the Sun which was built in 175 BC. Ma'aloula is full of super historical buildings and monuments! But alas, the Temple of the Sun was just a small, dark cave with graffiti on the wall. I thought they were uninteresting and therefore didn't take any photos. I thought these berry-like fruits in front of the temple were much more interesting:

Can eat or not?

Next, we saw an old man who pointed to an iron door that led into the rock crevices. We thought that was the proper path to follow and so a walking we went. Soon we found ourselves in a place that looked like the set of Star Wars:

This part of Ma'aloula was an exciting surprise, not mentioned in the guidebooks at all. Thank you old man for showing us the way.

We were worried that we were lost, but after seeing other locals and travellers using the path, we felt more comfortable. And true enough, soon we arrived at the other church that Ma'aloula is famous for - The Greek Orthodox Convent of St Takla.

Entrance to Convent of Saint Takla.

Here is another shot of the convent from a different angle:

Please ignore the aluminium can in the front of the photo. Didn't realise it's there until a Facebook friend pointed it out.

Like St Sergius, the Convent of St Takla has a beautiful courtyard in the middle:

That's Aud exploring the convent.

A flight of stairs lead to St Takla's shrine:

Sorry folks, but photos are not allowed in the shrine.

The convent also boasts of religious icons like these:

Who is that carrying whose head?

I love these too:

Not too sure what are these, but I think the one on the right is a holy water fount.

Even the various doors in the convent looked interesting to me:

3 Doors Down?

We spent so much time exploring the nooks and crannies of St Takla that we didn't realise it was late and had to cancel our onward trip to Seidnaya.

I didn't even have the chance to grab hold of some old lady and demand she speak Aramic because I really wanted to hear how the language sounds like. Could this be another reason to visit Syria again?

So we headed back to Damascus and I managed to snap a photo of the village from the car:

Goodbye Ma'aloula, never in my wildest dream did I know you were this exciting!


kc said...

CANTIK! Hmm,now syria is definitely on my radar.

Julie Lim said...

Hi KC,

Syria is absolutely amazing and you definitely won't be disappointed. But you have to postpone your trip as the country is now in turmoil. Sedih ...

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