Nestled in the mountains, about an hour's drive away from Damascus, the first sight of Maalula is really very quaint!
Maalula is a very small village with a population barely touching 2000. Also it appears that most inhabitants move to Damascus for their jobs and only come back here in summer.. it was amazing to be in the only place in the world, where people still spoke Armaic - the ancient language of Christ!
It is the home of two ancient Christian monasteries: Mar Sarkis and Mar Taqla. Both Christians and Muslim pilgrims come to Maalula seeking blessings.
Maalula means "the entrance" in Aramaic, very appropriate for the village's location at the entrance to a rocky gorge. Maalula perches on the slopes of the Kalamun Mountains overlooking lots of trees and the road.
I believe, Maalula is also the home to some interesting festivals. There are three major festivals: the St. Cross Festival on September 14; the Festival of Mar Takla on September 22; and the festival of Mar Sarkis on October 7. these are celebatde with great gusto and are very popular.
The Aramaic language was the main language used for communication between the Semitic peoples in the ancient middle east. Around the 8th century BC, the empire of the Aramaic language extended from Egypt to remote and isolated regions in Asia.
It is said that Christ's teachings were spread / written in Aramaic because it was the language spoken and written by him and his disciples. Today, what is called Syrian, is in reality a dialect of Aramaic spoken in Mesopotamia (nowadays known as Urfa in Turkey), which later became the language of the Christians in Syria.
At the same time, pressure was exerted on Syriac by the Arabic invaders especially after the 5th century AD. Syriac succumbed to this pressure in the end. The Arabs won the battle. However some pockets of resistance still exist. Maalula is an example of this. ( To read more on this interesting topic read http://www.lingolex.com/maalula/maalula.htm)..