When approaching Maloula from the Damascus-Aleppo highway, the village seems to be well protected under the umbrella of high cliffs. Once near, you can discern the colourful houses, especially of the older part of town. One of the main attractions of this peaceful place is the Convent of St. Taqla, right under one of the vertical walls of rock. As Maloula is a predominantly Christian village, it is full of convents. Of these, St. Taqla is probably the most prominent. It dates from the 4th century. According to legend, Taqla was pursued for her Christian faith, ended up here, prayed, and an opening in the rocks gave her protection and saved her.
Nowadays, walking up from the entrance of the convent, you can go a little higher than the cupolas and reach the small shrine inside a cavern. A tree with branches stretches out from the cavern, which also houses a small chapel. The water dropping from the ceiling is said to be sacred and is collected in a natural basin. A lone nun was in the chapel and silently moved out so I could move in - it is a small place. Inside, there are wooden icons and candles burning. A contrast to the courtyard of the convent where I saw nuns chatting on their mobile phones.
Behind the convent, a path leads through a canyon with high cliffs on either side. Unfortunately, up to two metres high the walls of the canyon are full of graffiti in all colours, otherwise, this is a lovely place, with a small stream flowing through it. It is hard to imagine that that flow has caved out the canyon! With a grand detour, I passed other convents and entered Maloula from the other side. Walking through the narrow alleys of the old town, I imagined that the language I heard was Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ himself. After all, this is one of the few villages where that language still survives, although it is feared that it will die out.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Maloula (Syria). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Maloula. Read more about this site.