Now, I really believed in karma.
I was hungry then I remember I have some bananas in my camera bag which I bought at the service van station in Damascus, I ate a couple of it and out of my mind I threw the peel on the ground while walking, in seconds I was looking for my eyeglasses --- I've lost it! Then I remember I did something wrong, I walked back where I've thrown the peeling picked it up and put it on the trash bin, went back to where I've been - the gorge passageways -- but I never found my eyeglasses prompting me to buy a pair of contact lens in Damascus.
The last set of stairs going inside a carved concrete housing on a rock is said to be the burial cave where the remains of St. Takla lies.
When you get in the chapel-like house, there is a courtyard where people are sitting on the sides and a large tree protrude its branches in and out to the windows of the house. At the end of the courtyard is the small room where people take off their shoes and pay tribute to the saint -- that's where the tomb is, and there's an old lady sitting there and some kids stopped by to her and let her tie this small thread-like thing like a bracelet on their arms.
The monastery of St. Takla holds a nice chapel and the remains of St. Takla inside a small concrete house on the uppermost portion carved inside the rock mountain.
St. Takla is a daughter of a Seleucid prince, a pupil of and married to St. Paul. The convent is bigger the St. Sergius and Bacchus convent and in a more dramatic location.
Rested for awhile at the open-air courtyard of the gorge. Lots of tourists are gathering here owing to the beauty of the view.
In fact, I didn't expect seeing this in Ma'loula, I was just interested in seeing the scenic town on the edge of the mountain, this was a plus.
After passing through the small opening passageways between the rocks, it opens up to a huge open-air sort of a courtyard where people converge -- taking pics.
The view of the whole area is breath-taking. You'll find many inlet carvings on the mountain rocks some of them big enough that you can get in, similar to the ones I've seen in Cappadocia, Turkey. Maybe due to the reason that cappadocia is also home to many christian hideaways during the christian persecution era.
The story says, this gorge opening is related to the escape of St. Takla. WHile St. Takla is escaping from her father's soldiers who're after her because of her christian beliefs, and she prayed til the mountain opened up that made her escape.
So this is the gorge opening. It's kind of thrilling passing through the small opening between the gorges.
Read on next tip...
From the gorge passage entrance, I walked along with other people. You have to navigate in between the gorges of huge mountian rocks. There are people passing and I found it, could I say this -- "cute" nuns photographing each other. Am not really sure if I could say that, but am not used to seeing nuns.
So on we go to the way to the convent.
Keep on reading.... next tip.
St. Takla is a greek orthodox monastery dramatically enclaved on the rugged rocks of Ma'loula.
After visiting St. Sergius and Bacchus convent, I walked along the road passing by the 4-star and maybe the only big hotel in the area - Safir Hotel. Sat for awhile at a side-road store to drink a soda, while sitting in front of me on the other road are signs pointing to my left which says St. Takla --- sooo, that's where I'm heading.
I followed those young teens with those scouts hanky hanging round their neck - they must be volunteers at the St. Sergius monastery - I saw some of them there. The road is going down and some people are walking against my way, they must have been done with the place. From a metal railing along the road I could see people in between the huge gorges leading to the convent. I said to myself, how on earth could I go there, or how did they managed to go there? I don't want to ask people I went along and found a small bridge where under it there is an archway (see pic) and that's the entrance to the gorge passageways.
Read on... next tip...
The St. Sergius and Bacchus convent is a greek catholic monastery located up on the mountain of Maaloula. Probably one of the oldest christian monastery predating the council of Nicea 325AD. Dedicated to the paired saints of St. Sergius and Bacchus - who died in 303AD - two high ranking roman soldiers under Ceasar Maximianus persecuted because of their christian beliefs, the latter died of torture, the former was beheaded.
The entrance is a small arched opening on the facade of the building, you have to bend a bit to get in.
Inside, there's a small chapel with a collection of paintings and saints images, they hold masses there. There is also a souvenir shop whose entrance is similar to the main one - bend over to get in. It isn't allowed to take pictures inside the chapel.
I passed by along the highway between two huge range of rock mountains on my way to St. Sergius monastery. I was following two locals with a kid who are going up also, I don't know to where, but am sure am on the right track as the kid down the town said so.
The service van dropped us at the main road of the town. I walked up on the long road up to St. Sergius instead of the easier way to St. Taqla qhich should be on the right side.
It was a 20-minute hike up the rugged mountain along a nice paved highway.
The catch: the only place on earth where people still speaks the language of Christ - Aramaic.
I guess that's the main reason - uniqueness - that made me come to Maaloula, however, the village is truly a beauty. Houses built on the side of the rugged mountains of rocks.
The village or town is up on the mountain 1,500 meters high all the houses or at least most of them clings on the edge of the rugged mountain.
And the convenience of doing a daytrip to there from Damascus is so easy, an hour trip using the ever-popular public transport of the country called service (shared van).
The cliffs surrounding Maaloula are dotted with little caves. It is said that people have sought refuge in these caves since ancient times. It seemed to me that this habit has not stopped to this day. Sadly, I noticed that many poor families still seemed to inhabit them.
Located on a hill at the edge of Maaloula, Deir Mar Sarkis, a Greek Catholic (Melkite) institution, is said to have existed as a church since the earliest Christian times. It is also said to have replaced a Roman pagan temple, of which the circular altar supposedly remains to this day. Sergius was a Roman who converted to Christianity and refused to make sacrifice to Jupiter. Although the church has undergone major restoration in the past centuries, the interior has icons dating back to Byzantine times. The nice lady who showed us around the church recited some prayers in Aramaic for us. There is a small shop selling nice souvenirs and offering free tastings of a locally made sweet wine.
The gorge of Saint Thecla in Maaloula is quite fascinating. It is a narrow passage that cuts through the mountain with a tiny stream running through it. In certain areas it widens and provides a backdrop that could be used in a sci-fi movie! This gorge is meant to be similar to the one in Petra (which I have yet to see), though it supposedly split by a miracle when St Thecla was escaping the Romans.