Overview of Ma'loula
|Governorate||Rif Dimashq Governorate|
|Elevation||1,500 m (4,900 ft)|
|Population (2004 census)|
Ma'loula, Maaloula, or Ma'lula (Aramaic: ܡܥܠܘܠܐ, Maʿlūlā; Arabic: معلولا Maʿlūlā) is a town 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 Jubaadin and Al-Sarkha (Bakhah).
According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics, Ma'loula had a population of 2,762 in the 2004 census. However, during summer, it increases to about 6,000, due to people coming from Damascus for holidays. Half a century ago, 15,000 people lived in Ma'loula.
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 Al-Sarkha (Bakhah) (Arabic: (الصرخه (بخعة) and Jubaadin (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, it is not the exact dialect Jesus of Nazareth spoke early in the first century. 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.
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. 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 Sarkis has two of the oldest icons in the world, one depicting the Last Supper.
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.
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
Syrian rebels took over the town on October 21. Around 13 people were killed, with many more wounded as a result of Islamist forces shelling the historic town.
On October 28, government forces recaptured the town.
Ma'loula was taken over by Al-Nusra Front opposing the Syrian government again on December 3, 2013. The Front, took 12 nuns as hostages, the nuns were moved between different locations and ended up in Yabroud and stayed for three months, officials from Qatar and Lebanon negotiated a deal for their release, the negotiations produced an agreement on a prisoner exchange under which around 150 Syrian women detained by the government were also freed, the nuns were freed on the 9th of March 2014, they stated that they were treated well by their captors. 
- General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Rif Dimashq Governorate. (Arabic)
- Sly, Liz (2003-03-12). "Language of Jesus clings to life". Chicago Tribune.
- Black, Ian (2009-04-14). "Endangered Aramaic language makes a comeback in Syria". The Guardian (London).
- Ross Burns, The Monuments of Syria, I. B. Taurus, 3rd edition 2009, p. 193.
- "Syria rebels withdraw from ancient Christian town of Maaloula". BBC News. September 6, 2013.
- http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/09/world/meast/syria-nuns-freed/ ,CNN nuns agreement
- http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/09/us-syria-crisis-nuns-idUSBREA280EL20140309 , Reuters nuns freed
- http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26510202 ,bbc Nuns treated well
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Maalula.|
- A web site dedicated to Ma'loula
- New York Times article on Aramaic language in Ma'loula and other villages in Syria
- Syrian village clings to Aramaic language at 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 1, 2, 3 at the Internet Archive.
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