The Ade Syria Tour – Day 9 – The road to Damascus from Homs

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December 27th 2008
Published: December 28th 2008
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Well last night was very interesting. Abdul had told us yesterday that there was a wedding party staying in the hotel. Well at about 10:30 last night, just as we had all gone to sleep the most amazing racket started up from somewhere. There were symbols, and horns and drums and shouting and it was so loud that it actually hurt our heads. The noise lasted for about ½ and hour and then stopped again. We thanked the peace and quiet gods and went back to sleep again. Only to have the noise start up again at 12am. This time it was even louder and I had had enough. So I got out of bed and stormed down stairs to the reception desk and proceeded to tell the front desk staff that they were to give us different rooms right this instant.

As I came downstairs I discovered why the noise was so loud in our rooms. Right in the foyer of the hotel the wedding party was having a right old time banging drums, smashing symbols, shouting and dancing around swords. It was unbelievably loud and our rooms were directly above it as the hotel had allocated us rooms
The Safir Hotel in HomsThe Safir Hotel in HomsThe Safir Hotel in Homs

relaxing after the fight with the front desk
that were on the first floor, just beside the stair well from the ground floor.

The front desk staff tried to tell me that the party was nearly over and that it would be quiet soon, so I had a good yelling match with them for about 5 minutes until they gave me some room keys for the 5th floor. So off Mum, Dad and I trotted at 12:15 in the morning in our pyjamas to the 5th floor, leaving all of our stuff downstairs in our 1st floor rooms. My handy travel tip for Syria is that you should always check the quality of the room that you are in as the rooms on the 5th floor were much much more plush than the mustard rooms that we had been given. Apparently they were smoking rooms and the only non-smoking rooms were on the 1st floor. So as we wanted a non smoking room we got a dingy old room, instead of a nice new room.

When it came time to check out the following morning we decided that we were going to try for a refund on our rooms for the night as we had had
Abdul and IAbdul and IAbdul and I

At the St Sergius Convent
such an experience. Well the front desk staff were having nothing of it, so each of us proceeded to have a nice little disagreement with them. It was a bit like WWF with us tagging in and out to have a go at them, whilst other family members went off to sort luggage and go to the WC. We finally settled for not paying our room service bill as compensation and an apology for the abject stupidity in putting guests in a room directly above the foyer when they knew that a wedding party was going to occur (but only after a long extended fight with the front desk, who had to consult the manager, who was in a meeting and wouldn’t be out for an hour - would we care to wait? - no we wouldn’t care to wait thank you very much, we will just leave right now without paying - oh look, here comes the manager now!)

Finally leaving the hotel with Abdul (who had quietly stood by, looking on in amusement as we fought with the hotel) we trundled into the car and headed off on the road to Damascus.

Abdul had a wee surprise for us today and took us somewhere that wasn’t on our itinerary. We were going to the village of Maaloula.

Ma'loula is a town in Syria dominated by speakers of Western Neo-Aramaic. The town is located 56 km to the northeast of Damascus, and built into the rugged mountainside, at an altitude of more than 1500 meters. The population consists of both Christians (Melkite) and Muslims.

There are two important monasteries in Ma'loula: Mar Sarkis and Mar Taqla. The Mar Sarkis monastery was built in the 4th century on the remains of a pagan temple, designed on the model of martyries, which have a simple, plain appearance. It was named after St. Sarkis (St. Sergius), a Roman soldier who was executed for his Christian beliefs. Saints Sergius and Bacchus were third century Roman soldiers who are commemorated as martyrs by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. Serge and Bacchus both officers of Caesar Maximian's army and secretly Christians, their martyrology reports their religion was discovered when they attempted to avoid accompanying a Roman official into a pagan temple with the rest of his bodyguard. After they persisted in refusing to worship Roman gods they were exiled to the front lines in Syria ca. 303 by order of Roman Emperor Maximian, where they were tortured and killed. Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture to later be beheaded. Both were killed in Syria;
An interesting twist to the tale is that Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern commenters to believe they were lovers!!!!!

The church that commerates these saints is apparently the oldest church in the world, being built in 325AD, before christianity had been accepted as the official religion of the holy roman empire. It also houses an 800 year old icon of the saints as well as the only icon in the world that depicts two religious scenes at once.

The monastery (which is actually a convent as it had a Mother Superior’s office) also had a delightful little shop which sold all sorts of lovely postcards and things and also gave you a free tasting of the local wine that they made in the town. It was actually very nice. Mum was most delighted when she discovered that the little beaded place mats that she was going to buy were actually made by the girl manning the store. She had to take a photo of the girl holding her place mats.

The other monastery in the town holds the remains of St. Taqla (Thecla); daughter of one of Seleucid princes, and pupil of St. Paul. According to legend, in the 1st century C.E, St. 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.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


The Takla GapThe Takla Gap
The Takla Gap

Everything here has numerous spellings for the same name
Damacus Airport LoungeDamacus Airport Lounge
Damacus Airport Lounge

Very very smoky!

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