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Title: Ma`loula  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Mandaic language, Neo-Aramaic languages, Languages of Syria, Syria
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia



Overview of Ma'loula
Location in Syria

Coordinates: 33°50′39″N 36°32′48″E / 33.84417°N 36.54667°E / 33.84417; 36.54667

Country  Syria
Governorate Rif Dimashq Governorate
District Al-Qutayfah District
Nahiyah Ma'loula
Elevation 1,500 m (4,900 ft)
Population (2004 census)
 • Total 2,762

Ma'loula or Maaloula (Aramaic: ܡܥܠܘܠܐ‎, Maʿlūlā; Arabic: معلولاMaʿlūlā) is a village in the Rif Dimashq Governorate in Syria. The town is located 56 km to the northeast of Damascus, and built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 metres. It is known as one of three places where Western Aramaic is still spoken, the other two being the nearby villages Jubb Adin and Bakh'a.


Maʿlūlā is from the Aramaic word maʿʿəlā (מעלא), meaning 'entrance'. Until recently, the village was dominated by speakers of Western Neo-Aramaic.


As of 2005, the town has a population of 2,000.[1] However, during summer, it increases to about 6,000, due to people coming from Damascus for holidays.[2] Half a century ago, 15,000 people lived in Ma'loula.[3]

Religiously, the population consists of both Christians (mainly Antiochian Orthodox and Melkite Greek Catholic) and Muslims. For the Muslim inhabitants, the legacy is all the more remarkable given that they were not Arabised, unlike most other Syrians who like them were Islamised over the centuries but also adopted Arabic and shifted to an "Arab" ethnic identity.


With two other nearby towns Bakh'a (Arabic: بخعة‎) and Jubba'din (Arabic: جبّعدين‎), it is the only place where a dialect of the Western branch of the Aramaic language is still spoken. Scholars have determined that the Aramaic of Jesus belonged to this particular branch as well. Ma'loula represents, therefore, an important source for anthropological linguistic studies regarding first century Aramaic, hence, Jesus' own Aramaic dialect. However, despite frequent mis-statements in the media,[4] it is not the exact dialect Jesus of Nazareth spoke early in the first century.[5] The distance from other major cities and its isolating geological features fostered the longevity of this linguistic oasis for over one and a 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.


There are two important monasteries in Ma'loula: Greek Catholic Mar Sarkis and Greek Orthodox Mar Thecla.

Mar Sarkis

One of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. It was built on the site of a pagan temple, and has elements which go back to the fifth to sixth century Byzantine period.[6] Mar Sarkis is the Arabic name for Saint Sergius, an Roman soldier who was executed for his Christian beliefs. This monastery still maintains its solemn historical character.

Mar Taqla

This monastery holds the remains of St Taqla (Thecla), which the second-century Acts of Paul and Thecla accounts a noble virgin and pupil of St. Paul. According to later legend not in the Acts, Taqla was being pursued by soldiers of her father to capture her because of her Christian faith. She came upon a mountain, and after praying, the mountain split open and let her escape through. The town gets its name from this gap or entrance in the mountain. However, there are many variations to this story among the residents of Ma'loula.

Other Monasteries

There are also the remains of numerous monasteries, convents, churches, shrines and sanctuaries. There are some that lie in ruins, while others continue to stand, defying age. Many pilgrims come to Ma'loula, both Muslim and Christian, and they go there to gain blessings and make offerings.

Syrian Civil War

Main article: Battle of Maaloula

Ma'loula became the scene of battle between Al-Qaeda linked jihadist Al-Nusra Front and the Syrian Army in September 2013. [7]

See also


External links

  • A web site dedicated to Ma'loula
  • New York Times article on Aramaic language in Ma'loula and other villages in Syria
  • Al Jazeera English
  • An episode from Australian program, Foreign Correspondent, about Ma'loula.
  • The dialect of Ma'lula. Grammar, vocabulary and texts. (1897–1898) By Jean Parisot (in French): Parts Internet Archive.

Coordinates: 33°50′39″N 36°32′48″E / 33.84417°N 36.54667°E / 33.84417; 36.54667

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