Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Au bonheur des voiles

Monastery of Deir Mar Moussa: Pilgrims (Christians and Moslems) eat and sleep free of charge

Deir Mar Moussa is located half an hour from the village of Maaloula and 2-hour walk in the desert of Nabak from the highway joining Damascus to Homs.

Maaloula is the village whose people still speak Aramaic (the language of Jesus). Last year the terrorist Al Nusra faction kidnapped a dozen of Orthodox Christian nuns and liberated them 6 months later for about $8 million (Paid by Qatar?)

The church of Mar Moussa (named after the monk Moise of Ethiopia al Habashi) is organized as a Mosque: Carpets, cushions, you leave shoes at the entrance, a traditional cylindrical stove with large pipes as at homes, Bibles of different languages, low tables covered by candles and flowers, walls embellished by medieval icons and fresco… You just feel at home and comfortable.

Surprisingly, there is a “mihrab” inside the church for the Moslem pilgrims to face and pray.

You find various kinds of musical instruments, guitar, oud, tambourine… and the underground library contains manuscripts  in Arabic, French, Italian, magazines…and new books, poetry and novels left by tourists and pilgrims.

There is this feeling of brute primitive environment surrounded with warmth and intimacy.

You could sleep in the church when the dormitories are filled.

No one is asked to fill pages of information or shows his identity card or passport.

No one is asked to pay anything for the lodging and food offered at noon and in the evening.

Everyone is invited to partake in the cooked dishes of rice, lentils, bourgol…served in big caldrons, sort of self service buffet.  Meat, vegetables and fruits are rare: everything on the table is grown by the monastery.

In the evening, you are served cheese, marmalade, Syrian bread. zaatar and olive oil. You dip a piece of bread in the oil and then re-dip it in the za3tar.

There are no shops of any kinds and everything served is free.

You may volunteer to help in the kitchen and the washing of the dishes.

This church is a far cry from the European Cathedrals. You have to pay a hefty fee just to enter. When you enter a Cathedral, you have to follow directional arrows, sit on hard benches, cold sips through your bones, you are denied to speak and converse, you are looked upon with suspicion if you are not faking to pray: the place is not a cool place for taking a short break.

And all kinds of shops surround the Cathedral, at exorbitant prices.

Deir Mar Moussa is a representation of Syria. That’s Syria before this ugly civil war and the hordes of Wahhabi-type religious sects terrorizing the Syrians.  Extremist religious factions funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Arab Gulf Emirates.

Note 1: It is a good read of Stephan Chaumet’s “Au bonheur des voiles“, (Cruising amid women’s veils in Syria)

Note 2:

The Host, the Guest and the Mosque

The other cannot be my enemy, except when I refuse him to pass my door or I break his door.

The host is the one who welcomes you in and the one you welcome in your home. Host and guest are the same in hospitality communities.

We either enter or let the host come in.

The hosts transact. If you close your door, you are on the path of letting fear be walled in within you.

You close the doors and you have decided to live in a ghetto: And everyone outside your ghetto is a potential enemy, the evil people, your evil fear.

The other one is no longer someone just a tad different in the same species.

Lock your fear inside and the outside is the hostile environment.

The monk and his disciple were walking. The disciple felt thirsty and drank from a source. The monk reprimanded him: “Have you forgotten that we are fasting?”  The disciple said: “But we already had breakfast at our host house this morning”. The monk replied:

Honoring our host is part of the fasting ritual

In the Mosques of Syria, particularly the large mosques, you feel instantly at home. You are wandering bare feet, on lush carpets, a heating stove to warm, you sit on the ground, you sleep, you read, you pray, you converse…

Nobody disturbs your privacy or try to bother you.

Children circulate freely, couples walk holding their shoes, the young girls are free to wander, the workers take their well-deserved breaks, take naps.

A vast movement of people without the tumult and noises of the souks, shops, merchants and clients…

A good feeling of well-being and a welcomed guest, anytime of the day and night.

Stephane Chaumet wrote “Au Bonheur des voiles“, detailing his peregrination throughout Syria before the civil war.

Not a tourist, not a journalist: He is just opening his eyes, ears, and nostrils to what’s going on around him, the difference in customs within a town, among religious sects, various traditions in the families, the communities, the provinces.

Hitch hiking, being picked up, invited to spend overnight with families, and strangers facilitating his curious adventure.

And how different and varied are the veiled females, their customs, habits, longing, jobs….

Ibn Arabi wrote: “Any location that has not be transformed by women is not worth living in




October 2022

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