Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rockin' on The Prophet's Birthday

When traveling in Syria my friend Janet and I visited the town of Ma'loula, a village cut into rock about an hour from Damascas known for its preservation of the Aramaic language, the language Christ spoke. The place has a long history, which includes the refuge of Thecla, a woman who led people to Chrisitanity as a follower of St. Paul. A larger-than-life statue of The Virgin Mary overlooks the valley and a monastery on the mountaintop celebrates Mass every morning in Aramaic. Please see my website for a video of the local priest reciting the Lord's Prayer in this ancient language.

The day we arrived in Ma'loula, the townspeople were busy setting up chairs, shade tarps and mega speakers. Soon, rocked-up versions of Sufi music echoed off the bluffs. As we passed by the crowd, men waved to us to join them, handing us small cups of hot tea and bags of roasted nuts. They directed Janet and I to the women's side of the space. Women covered in veils and others wearing black chadors stood up to greet us, kissing us on both cheeks, and others reached out to squeeze our hands. We could hardly hear their greetings over the music. We soon learned that we were in the midst of a birthday celebration for The Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him. "We're celebrating about a month late," someone with English told us. "because of the weather."

The mix of religions coexisting in this town felt mirrored in Damascas and every other town we visited in Syria, as if everyone is equally appreciative and proud of a shared rich cultural heritage.

For more information visit: www.MeghanNuttallSayres.com