The Syria of today offers tourists as much a cultural experience as a sightseeing one, where ancient history provides a fascinating backdrop to everyday life on the streets                          

 


 Maaloula

Perched in the Qalamoun mountains range 30 miles north of Damascus, 1500 meters above the sea, there it is laid registering history on its rocks, witnessing historical events.. "Maaloula is an oasis in the midst of desert, its isolated location symbolic of its history"

   

    

Maaloula has striven for centuries to retain her cultural and religious integrity. 
Her people have wrestled with schism and internal differences as well as standing
out alone as a tiny minority in a Muslim nation. 
Such circumstances created a people who tenaciously adhere to their roots 
and to signs of their faith.

With the introduction of television and other modern conveniences, many of Maaloula's youngsters leave for the cities in search 
for jobs and a better life. There, they speak Aramaic less frequently and grow accustomed to Arabic,
 the national language. Inevitably those who remain in Maaloula must strain to maintain their identity. Arabic,
not Aramaic, is taught in schools.

Because the Aramaic dialect spoken in Maaloula is never written, it is less open to change,
adapt and expand as languages must in order to express modern ideas and vocabulary. Hence,
Aramaic has eroded as a vernacular language and is now exclusively a language for scripture scholars.

When you enter this town, you feel that you are in a world of wonders, a world of miracles. You would be taking by the beauty of its mountains surrounding the whole village. Its houses grouped and collected on those rocks as in birds nets hang on rocks and huge old trees. Houses built one on top of the other's). Each level is not more than a house in height. Their roofs has transferred to roads and paths for the houses above..

As the spoken language in the Semitic cultures of Babylonia, Palestine and Persia,

Western Aramaic (Jesus's language)

language flourished until the rise of Islam and Arabic. Today approximately 15,000 people speak this ancient Semitic language, 8000 of which are residents of the Syrian Christian village of Maaloula.

Saint Sergius and Bacchus (Mar Sarkis)

Built in the fourth century, the church commemorates two Syrian soldiers,
Serguis and Bacchus. It is one of the oldest continuously active churches in the world.

The architecture of the church reveals a strong influence from the Byzantine
East. Like The Haghia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul), though on a much smaller scale.

Saint Serguis has a similar basilican plan crowned by a dome which floods the interior with light.
The altar in this ancient church still resemble pagan altars with one differece;
absent is the hole which allowed the blood of the sacrificed animals to freely
flow. Capped with semicircular marble slabs, the freestanding altars, unlike any
other in the Christian world, testify to the survival of an ancient culture and
the living church's roots.
The people of Maaloula now cater mostly to tourists and scholars. The Basilian
Salvatorian Order of the Greek Catholic Community, which serves the people
of Saint Serguis, has published a brochure in several languages that explains
the history of Maaloula and the convent of Saint Serguis. 
The Ministry of Tourism of the Syrian Arabic Republic, eager to promote tourism from the
West, boasts in colorful brochures of Maaloula's unique role in the history of the church.

 
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Toronto - Canada
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