Ma’alula is a unique city in Syria

 

 

 

Ma’alula means the entrance in the Aramic language. It is a rocky village located in the middle of the Syrian countryside, nestled in the Qalamoun mountains 1500 meters above sea level, Maaloula is one of the most scenic villages in Syria, up till now it’s people still speak Aramic, the language of Jesus Christ . It is historically the home of the First Martyr, St Takla, daughter of a Roman prince who was converted to Christianity by St Paul. The story goes that after St Takla’s pagan father learned of her conversion, he sent his soldiers to execute her but each time she was miraculously saved. Fleeing to Syria, St Takla found herself confronted by the impassable Qalamoun mountains. After praying to God to save her, the mountain was miraculously split in half so she could escape her persecutors.

Arriving in Maaloula you feel this ancient history in the air. It’s pregnant with religion. There are crosses hidden in every cave and painted on every wall. Some are carved, some are lit at night, and more still are plain – just simple remembrances of the town’s pervasive Christianity. At the top of the mountains there’s another reminder; a statue of the Blessed Mother overlooking the village with her loving gaze. Christianity isn’t something that’s just talked about here, it’s in the air, the earth, and the very breath of each of its 2,000 inhabitants.

In Ma’alula you won’t find the usual hustle and bustle of other Middle Eastern towns; there’s a vibe of pilgrimage. A place where adventurous Christians and Muslims alike can follow the steep mountain road up to the Monastery of St Takla, home to the miraculous waterfall created by God for the pursued martyr.

The village has two famous monasteries:

Mar Sarkis

Mar Sarkis was built in the 4th century on the site of a pagen temple. It is considered one of the oldest surviving monasteries in the Christian world. This ancient Greek Catholic monastery of St Sergius, with its beautiful decoration pieces dating back from the Byzantine period, is the one of the reasons why Christian pilgrims from all over the world come to Ma’alula. They come seeking blessings and to wonder on this religious marvel.

Mar Taqla

Mar Takla is the other ancient and equally important Christian monastery in Ma’alula. This Greek Orthodox  monastery of St. Taqla houses some of the Christian religious relics considered highly sacred to the Christian world.

Archaeologists have discovered a number of rock-carved temples and halls from the 1st millennium before Christ as well as some Roman and Byzantine cemeteries dating back to the period between the 1 st and 4 th centuries after the birth of Christ   

Ma’alula Not just is one of the oldest towns in the world, It is the only city where its 2,000 inhabitants still speak Aramaic – (the language of Jesus ) .It is a unique city and is by far.

Compiled by

Butheina Alnounou

 

 

 

Phoenician Temple ,most important excavations at Amrit

  

The city lies on the Mediterranean coast around 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) south of modern-day Tartus. Two rivers cross the city: Nahr Amrit, near the main temple, and Nahr al-Kuble near the secondary temple, a fact that might be linked to the importance of water in the religious traditions in Amrit. The city was probably founded by the Arvadites, and served as their continental base. It grew to be one of the wealthiest towns in the dominion of Arwad. The city surrendered, along with Arwad, to Alexander the Great in 333 BC. During Seleucid times the town, known as Marathus, was probably larger and more prosperous than Arwad. In 219 BC Amrit gained independence from Arwad, and was later sacked by forces from the latter city in 148 BC.

Excavations of the site principally began in 1860 by Ernest Renan. Excavations were again carried out in 1954 by the archaeologist Maurice Dunand. Ceramic ware finds at Amrit indicated the site had been inhabited as early as the third millennium BC. Middle and Late Bronze Age "silo tombs" were also excavated, with contents ranging from weapons to original human remains. Excavations at the necropolis south of the town yielded several tomb structures. The funeral art found in some tombs with pyramidal-or cube-shaped towers, is considered some of "the most notable grave-monuments of the Phoenician world." Excavations also uncovered the town's ancient harbor, and a U-shaped stadium that dates back to the 4th and 3rd centuries BC and measures around 230 metres (750 ft) in length.

One of the most important excavations at Amrit was the Phoenician temple, commonly referred to the "ma'abed," dedicated to the god Melqart of Tyre and Eshmun. The colonnaded temple, excavated between 1955 and 1957, consists of a large court cut out of rock measuring 47×49 metres (154×161 ft) and over 3 metres (9.8 ft) deep, surrounded by a covered portico. In the center of the court a well-preserved cube-shaped cella stands.] The open-air courtyard was filled with the waters of a local, traditionally sacred spring, a unique feature of this site. The temple dated back to the late 4th century BC shows major Achaemenid influence in its layout and decoration. According to Dutch archaeologist, Peter Akkermans, the temple is the "best-preserved monumental structure from the Phoenician homeland."

A second temple, described by visitors to the site in 1743 and 1860 and thought to have disappeared, was later discovered by the Syrian archaeological mission near the Nahr al-Kuble spring.

Compiled by:Maysa Wasouf

 

 

 

Holy Patriarchal Convent of Our Lady of Saidnaya

The Saidnaya Convent is located in the mountains 20 miles north the city of Damascus in Syria. Saidnaya was the seat of the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch. Saidnaya has many ancient associations with the Bible. Many scholars consider Saidnaya to be second in religious importance to Jerusalem. Pilgrims from all over the world seek Saidnaya for renewal of faith and for healing. Saidnaya is also an area renowned for its faithfulness to Christianity.

The walls are covered with myriad signs of gratitude to the All-pure One. The Icon of the All-holy Virgin is believed to be one of four icons extant that were painted by St. Luke the Evangelist himself. In the Syriac language this icon is called the Chahoura or Chaghoura, which means "The Illustrious, Celebrated, or Renowned.". There are also many other fine icons of the Holy Virgin and the saints, which date from the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries. There are about fifty nuns in the convent, presided over by an abbess. The convent owns several inalienable properties in Syria and Lebanon. Thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the world visit this holy place every year, particularly for its feast, the Nativity of the Theotokos on the eighth of September. In its library, which contains hundreds of valuable manuscripts, it can be documentedthatthe convent was founded about the year 547.

The convent soon gained such renown that it came to be ranked second only to Jerusalem as a place of pilgrimage, and nuns from every corner of Syria, Egypt, and other lands flocked to it. The holy Icon El Chagoura appeared many years after the convent was constructed.

Visitors from the region and from far away places seek The holy Lady of Saidnaya (Chaghoura) shrine for healing. Numerous miraculous healing stories have been reported and some of these stories are documented in writing by those who experienced it in the entrance of the holy shrine in the convent. Many other Catholic and Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox churches and monasteries have been built in Saidnaya throughout history. There are few massive monasteries that have been built recently. These include: St. Thomas Roman Catholic Monastery, St. Estphariuos Orthodox Monastery, Cherubim Monastery in Marret Saidnaya. 

 

Nada Haj Khader

 

AL-Miskiya Market,Good Destination for Students

School and university students head to Almiskiya market-around the clock- where a huge numbers of shops displayed necessary materials with high quality and low prices.

Abo Jameel Al-Mujtahed ,aged 74  ,is a shop owner since almost five decades.

Al-Mujtahid , who witnessed countless number of incidents which took place there,gave a brief account on the said souk.

"Al-Miskiya souk meets the requirements of school and university students as regards books and stationary.

These books are branded as high quality with low price.

Shoes and handicrafts are also displayed for buyers in the souk.

The high season for sellers comes right at the return of pupils to their schools.

The displayed goods, to a large extent, attracted pupils and their parents alike to buy their necessary needs with low prices.

"the market embodies the state  of brotherhood among shops'owners.Furthermore, we encourage each other to take benefits of this strategic market ,"another shop owner asserted.

It is worth noting that al-Miskiya souk is located near the most important souk in Syria (al-Hamidiya) and this simply means a merit for buyers who could complete their shopping.

 

Hanan Shamout

 

Al-Heet Town,a Unique Archaeological site

Al-Heet Town, about 13 kilometers northeast of Shahba city in Swaida, is full of unique archaeological sites  dating back to more than two thousand years. These sites narrate the region's history, the ancient civilization and religious systems prevailed in different periods.

" Most prominent monuments in the village, which were known in the past as Eta, is al-Qaser(the palace) which is a three-storey huge building on a shape of U letter around a courtyard with underground floors. A large number of crosses are engraved on doors and arches." Director of Swaida Antiquities Department Hussein Zeineddin said.

He added that about 100 meters away from the palace, there are the southern church with walls contain seven inscriptions painted on reused stones, and the eastern Church as well.

Zeineddin said the village also embraces huge archaeological dwellings in the northwestern of the town which extends over 1512 square meters.

 

Maysa Wassouf