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hieronyma Ma'alula - A travel report by Christl
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Ma'alula,  Syria - flag Syria -  R¿f Dimashq
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hieronyma's travel reports

Syria revisited - Ma'alula and other magic places

  22 votes
Page: 1 2
Syria is protected in its development by its isolation.This journey seems to have been an irrealis, as if I hovered over a distant country and viewed it.

Syria, Ma'alula, built into the rocks, where the language of Christ is spoken.
Syria, Ma'alula, built into the rocks, where the language of Christ is spoken.
In Mar Sergio, high above Ma'alua, Pater Taufik of the Melchite- Roman Church pursues the goal of closing the gap between the Greek-Orthodox Church and Rome, concerned too with connections to the Syrian government and the Moslem community. Hiking through a dry riverbed, its absolute stillness only interrupted by the voice of a young woman singing an old heartbreaking tune, I reached Mar Musa near Al Nabk, built centuries ago on the base of an old watchtower, surveying the Silk Road, ruined, restored by Melchite monks. The old church with its frescos, simple in their way of painiting, direct in their message, is beautiful. A magic place where energy is filling up the low reserves of life's necessary strength, so I was told. A young nun in Mar Jakob near Qarah told me of her decision to enter this contemplative Melchite order to intensify her relationship with Jesus. A fragile woman, totally in union with herself, she didn't miss the outside world. Never to forget Mischtaye and the view from my hotelroom onto the Krak des Chevalier, the full moon above it and the laughter of young people in the night. Driving Northwest through a wide, soft, fertile landscape I reached a sheltered valley: Hosn Suleiman. The temple of Jupiter seems to have been erected by giants. With huge stones they built the cella, raised high above ground in the center of a wide compound, surrounded by high walls with a gate on either side, which still show sophisticated decorations with figures of Alexander the Great. A place of worship and pilgrimage as nobody lived in the hills around it. It was the hour of the Pan and I was lost in thoughts. There is Al Mera near Marmarita where the intelligent people live who consider learning as the foundation stone of life, a convent of St. Giorgio, where a document issued by Omar I., the 2nd caliph after Mohammed, as an act of reconcilialtion with the Christians because they are believers and an order not destroy their churches, is treasured.

Favourite spots:
Qasr alhir al Charki, Syria, Entrance to the Palace
Qasr alhir al Charki, Syria, Entrance to the Palace
East of Palmyra Qasr alhir al Charki, built by caliph Hischan bin Abdul Malek of the Umajjad in 730, a palace, a town, between them an impressive watch tower, is situated where once had been a thriving oasis. Hunting was good, necessary too, because it became a center of trade, a military base, a carawansery. As Islam came out of the steppe, the nomads had to rely on Byzantium for knowledge of building towns, palaces, defensework etc. Building material came from places as far as Assuan. But what makes it so special is its being lost in the desert under the relentlessly burning sun and the absolute absence of any kind of noise. Ruined as it is, it nevertheless seems to be populated, agitated when people from all over the known world met to exchange not only goods, but thoughts, beliefs, and customs.

What's really great:
East of Palmyra, Syria: The old way of building houses.
East of Palmyra, Syria: The old way of building houses.
Somewhere in the steppe between Palmyra and Aleppo I visited with an elderly couple, the owner of a beehive house, built in adobe style, a perfect solution for this climate. Over a cup of tea they told me that most of their money came from selling sheep and lambs, but they also have olive trees, and the tourists coming by to see the house are adding to their income too. The made a selfconfident impression, surely they were not rich, surely they don't have running water and electricity, but they were satisfied with their way of life.

Ain Dara, Syria, animals, carved in black basalt.
Ain Dara, Syria, animals, carved in black basalt.
To visit Seydnaya, church and convent, is worthwhile, if only to learn that this Greek-Orthodox church is a place of worship for Christians and Muslims alike, as it possesses a healing icon of St. Mary.
I recommend Ain Dara, the Aramaean-Hethite temple, a quadrangle, walled in by black basalt stones, decorated with figures of human and animal forms. A stair leads into the inner area to an impression of a single foot, from where the believer had to do a wide step into another one, meaning, he enters a new life, which brought him face to face with the image of a god, dominating the inner sanctum. Situated on a hill, the view is beautiful.

Aleppo, Syria, inside the castle.
Aleppo, Syria, inside the castle.
Mar Musa: You can stay without paying for food and sleeping accomodation, but you are expected to do household cores.
The same seems to be true for convents, i.e. Mar Thekla in Ma'alula, where you are expected to pay as much as you are able to.
There is a hostel in Aleppo, see Lonely Planet, I saw it. It has all the services you need when you are travelling and is clean. It has different sleeping accomodations, also for very small purses. It is conveniently situated in the center of town. It has European toilets!!!

Published on Monday August 1th, 2005

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Fri, Mar 05 2010 - 07:38 AM rating by louis

I think that this report (with beautiful pictures) convinced me in 100 % to visit Syria. Great, really great report

Thu, Jan 25 2007 - 02:58 PM rating by mrscanada

I would love to visit Syria one day.

Tue, Aug 02 2005 - 05:03 AM rating by davidx

It seems a long time since your last but it's certainly worth waiting for something like this.
Cheers, David

Mon, Aug 01 2005 - 11:16 PM rating by rangutan

Magic report!

Mon, Aug 01 2005 - 08:19 PM rating by eirekay

Christl, you give such WONDERFUL descriptions! Great adjectives! What a wonderful trip this sounds like! As an Orthodox Christian I have heard much of the Convent in Seydnaya. This is a part of the world I long to see!

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