MAALULA

Located just 60 kilometers from Damascus, Maalula attracts visitors both for its charm, and for its importance in the history of Syrian Christianity. Homes in Maalula are gaily painted in violet and blue pastels, and perched abreast an imposing gorge between two mountains. Follow a twisting, narrow pathway deep into the mountain crevasse, the famous Al Faj, to the top of the mountain to explore caves dating back to Roman times. Maalula is also home to a population that still speaks a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, and to two historic Christian monasteries: one Greek Orthodox dedicated to St. Thekla, the other Greek Catholic dedicated to Saint Sergius. Legend has it that St. Thekla, one of the pupils of St. Paul, was fleeing her pagan father’s guards when she found herself trapped against the face of the high rocky mountain. Her passionate prayers and tears caused the mountain to split, allowing Thekla to escape. Today Thekla’s tears trickle down into a grotto forming a pool, where believers collect water for its miraculous powers.