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At the time of the crusaders Seidnayya was considered to be second only to Jerusalem as an important place of pilgrimage. The reason is a portrait of Virgin Mary said to have been painted by St Luke. The portrait can be seen in a small dark room beside the chapel, together with many more recent icons and silver crosses. Many miracles are attributed to the icon. An Iraqi man visiting the convent asked if I had seen the image of Jesus by the stairs, halfway up to the convent. I hadn’t, so he took me down to show me the image. The image is protected behind bars, and is said to have appeared after a man rested his oil jar on that spot.
The convent is believed to date back to the 6th century and to be founded by the Byzantine emperor Justinian. Not much remains that is very old. Of what can be seen of the building today much dates to the 19th century.
Updated May 15, 2006
I had read in my guide book that buses between Seidnayya and Maalula are not very freequent and was prepared to wait for a long time (maybe two hours). On my way down from the monastery to the road I asked a woman if that was the road for buses to Maalula. She said I should look for the sign saying Maalula (all signs are of course in Arabic). After waiting only a minute a microbus came, I waved and asked for Maalula. The driver said yes and made a sign I should enter the bus. After the last passenger had left the bus he slowed down and said "Maalula no servise. Maalula extra". I became very angry and considered to ask him to take me back to Seidnaya, but finally agreed that he took me to Maalula for 300 SP. After beeing angry I just felt sad and tricked and that the day was ruined. I think the driver got a bit worried because he called someone who spoke English that he wanted to explain for me that it was extra to go to Seidnayya. I told her the problem was that the driver didn't tell me from the beginning but only after everybody else had left the bus, and that was wrong. I hope she told him that!
I think it took about half an hour to Maalula, or more.
Updated Jul 5, 2005
Microbuses to Seidnayya and Maalula leaves from Karajat Maalula. I took a taxi from close to my hotel (Al-Rabie) to Karajat Maalula and it was 25 SP. I was lucky as the microbus became ful when I arrived and therefor left for Seidnaya. To Seidnayya it cost 13 SP and it took 25 minutes. In Seidnayya the microbus stopped just below the monastery. From where the bus stopped there are stairs, between the houses, leading up to the Monastery.
Updated Jul 5, 2005