We hired our dear friend Abu Muhammad (left) to drive one of the hostel's vehicles, and then the four of us set out for our adventure! It was a lovely day and soon we were in Saydnaya. One huge difference compared to Damascus is the number of crosses instead of mosques.
I learned Saydnaya had more of a traditional Christian population which explained the numerous convents and monasteries and churches compared to mosques. I have many more pictures of Saydnaya for another day.
After leaving Saydnaya, we drove in the mountains another half hour to Maaloula, one of the only places left in the world where Aramaic - the language of Jesus - is still spoken!
The mountains in this part of Syria are so unlike what I am used to! They are like a natural fence - a great wall. And oh so barren! I am used to the trees and greenery along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Here are some neighborhoods in Maaloula.
I like how houses and places of worship are built right up in the mountains. Maaloula was able to keep the Aramaic language alive because it is far enough away from the big cities that it wasn't "Arabized."
Here is what Wikipedia says about that:
The town is located 56 km to the northeast of Damascus, and built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 meters. The distance and geological features only aided the longevity of this linguistic oasis for over one and half thousand years. However, modern roads and transportation, as well as accessibility to Arabic-language television and print media - and for some time until recently, also state policy - have eroded that linguistic heritage. As of 2005, the town has a population of 2,000.
Sights in Maaloula
A convent sheltered by the mountain
St. Takla Monastery ... there was a fantastic walk to this place! I will share pictures from The Gap another time. It was great!
Pictures from Syria