8/11/2005

The Gorge


Maaloula is a small mountainous village located 50 km to the north-east of Damascus. It is famous for being one of the very few places in the world where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ. One of the highlights of Maaloula is the Fajj (gorge), a split that cuts through the mountains of Maaloula forming a beautiful narrow corridor. It is believed that the fajj is related to the story of St. Thecla (Arabic Taqla), the first girl martyr in Christianity. After converting to Christianity, Thecla was prosecuted by her family and by the Roman authorities. She was being chased by Roman soldiers when she faced a huge mountain, a dead end with no chances for escape. She prayed to God to save her and her prayer was miraculously answered when the rocks were split, forming a narrow passage: The fajj. This is where the village probably derives its name from; the word Maaloula in Aramaic means 'entrance'.

15 comments:

Ahmad said...

Although I don't believe in these kind of stories but It shows great heritage and Culture. Ma'aloula is a very beautiful town. When I visited Ma'aloula the last time I just wished that they planted more trees in the surroundings. THe convent is worth visiting and they have great wine that they offered to visitors.

Faraz said...

Are Arabic and Aramaic mutually inteligible i.e. if one can speak and understand one language can s/he also understand and speak the other language?

no one said...

i can't see why not? alot of ppl speak 7 languages

Tolerant Damascene said...

I visited Maloula twice before. It's such an amazing and charming village. It has an atmosphere that is very mysterious.

All the semetic languages are related to each other in a way or another. It's easier for Arabic-speaking people to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, or Syriac than to learn a western language.
we have the same phoenetics and pronounciation, so I don't think it's that hard.

Besides, Syrians use many words that are the same or related to Syriac which is a dialect of Aramaic.

I'm planning to learn Syriac at some point. I was surprised to find that most of the schools that teaches Syriac in the US are related to Jewish studies. I learned that many of their manuscripts were written in Syriac.

Does anybody know where someone could learn Aramaic or Syriac in Syria?

GottfriedStutz said...

The brand of Aramaic spoken in Maaloula (and two other nearby villages which, unlike Maaloula, are predominantly Muslim) is close to, but not the same as, the Syriac used in the liturgy of the Syrian Church and in many old manuscripts.

To my knowledge, the Maaloula brand of southern Aramaic can currently be studied in Maaloula itself. The man who took the initiative to try save the language by teaching it is called George Rezkallah. I don't know how he can be reached, but everyone in Maaloula will lead you to him.

Also, the Syrian government suddenly woke up after the success of Mel Gibson's "Passion" (in which Aramaic was used) and decided to grant funds specifically to teaching the language, but I don't know of any follow-up on that decision.

As for Syriac, it is taught in many places in the world. Syrian churches worldwide organise courses. Institutes specialised in oriental studies or Middle-Eastern achaeology also offer such courses usually.

GottfriedStutz said...

Hello again!

Faraz, to answer your question, it is not that easy for an Arabic-speaking person to understand Syriac (or the Maaloula type of Aramaic) without some prior knowledge of some rules and words. However, when an Arabic-speaking preson starts studying these two languages, progress in learning them is often very fast because of the many similarities in vocabulary and grammar.

To give you a funny example, when they hear the people from Maaloula say "lekhmaa", Arabic-speaking Syrians or Lebanese would immediately think that they mean the Arabic "la7m" - "meat". In fact, it is the same word originally. However, "lekhmaa" means bread (this is the same as the "lehem" in "Bethlehem", by the way). In Arabic, there was a shift - may be earlier than the first traces of written Arabic in the 4th century A.D. - in the meaning of the equivalent "la7m" to designate meat.

Well, it was just an example. Hope it is useful.

End racism said...

Nice photo.

Ayman said...

Like Gottfried mentioned, the "Passion" movie brought Maaloula back into the light and an Aramaic Teaching Center was opened in the village last year. It is run by the Governorate of Damascus Countryside:

http://maalula-aram.com

Hakeem said...

i was in Maaloula the Christmas of 2001. It's beautiful. Being British Indian, I think I must have been a rare treat for the locals...

luz de la luna said...

You always take us to such interesting places :-)

- Martin

aleppian said...

the pic is very good shot!!

Oz said...

yeah, nice pic, and thanks for the explanation, this funny, that each side from the corridor seems to be complementary to the other side, as if it has been opened, anyway, keep on posting (thing that i must do myself, lol)

Abu Sinan said...

Great site and awesome pictures.

Amine's said...

I just came through your weblog and I was wondering how's life in Syria.

I'm a world traveler looking to discover the multitude of cultures that thrive within our globe.
I found your postings really interesting.
Keep up with the great job

newc said...

I miss them greatly.