Syria: Maaloula Seeking to Join World Heritage List

syria_maaloula1.jpgBy H. Zain
Syria (Damascus) – A Workshop on Restoration Project of the old city of Maaloula and expanding local participation was held in Maaloula city, 56 kms to the northeast of Damascus.

Governor of Damascus Countryside Zahed Haj Moussa said Maaloula restoration project comes in the framework of the government interest in this city because it possesses all components and potentials qualifying it to enter the World Heritage List.

Haj Moussa added that the workshop aims at exchanging views and ideas among the official, artistic sides and the citizens, as well as the participation of the local community in decisionmaking for a fruitful cooperation among all parties to optimally accomplish the restoration project.

He pointed out that the first phase on establishment of the infrastructure was completed by 100 per cent, noting that the 2nd phase will be the restoration of alleys squares, holy places and houses.

The government will present all available support through offering easy loans to the citizens to make the restoration works for their houses.

The project will have a profound impact on tourist and economic values of the city, particularly that environmentally friendly transport, rest houses, and libraries will be ensured making the city an excellent tourist destination.

General Supervisor of the Restoration Project Muwaffaq Dughman said the Project will highlight the historical and archeological potentials of Maaloula city, particularly the public monuments in the old city.

He added that the Project mainly aims at setting direct developmental policies of the city, shedding light on its inhabitant texture, the cultural, handicrafts, the agricultural and the custom components for investing them in the development field and developing the traditional handicrafts and tourist and cultural rehabilitation.

Maaloula is one of the most important archeological, religious and tourists destinations in Syria where most of the sites date back to the Roman and Byzantine eras.

Maaloula in the Syriac language means the high place where the fresh air blows.

The city is distinguished by its unique architectural style as its houses were built on the versant of the mountain, and connected with each others through narrow alleys.

The Aramaic language, the language spoken by Jesus Christ, is still spoken by the Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the city along with the Arabic language.

Maaloula encompasses various monasteries such as Mar Sarkis and Mar Thecla which embraces the remains of St. Taqla (Thecla); daughter of one of Seleucid princes, and pupil of St. Paul.

Mar Sarkis is 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 Byzantine reign. It is the Arabic name for Saint Sergius, a Roman soldier who was executed for his Christian beliefs. This monastery still maintains its solemn historical character.