Syria: Maaloula – Saint Thekla Convent

The Saint Thekla Convent aka Mar Tekla Monastery is a major Christian pilgrimage site. Almost all people in town actually speak ancient Aramaic language, the language of Jesus Christ, and the Christian community here dates back over a thousand years. The convent is built around the legendary grotto of Saint Thekla. According to the legend, Thekla was a pagan girl who found refuge from the Roman soldiers chasing her in the grotto in the mountains here and adopted Christianity as a reason for her salvation. She spent the rest of her life in this grotto and used the spring water from inside the grotto to cure a whole slew of various diseases from paralysis to infertility. Long story short, the grotto is sacred now and there is a convent and a church, both quite impressive, built around it. Supposedly, the nuns collaborated with Al-Nusra terrorists who occupied Maaloula during the civil war in Syria, and the latter spared the convent from destruction.