Monday, August 13, 2007

Mar Mousa

I spent this weekend in a hermits cave up at one of the most spectacular monasteries I've ever been to. It's only about a hour and a half out of Damascus, set up in a rocky outcrop of high mountains in the middle of a huge desert plain. After finding someone who will drive you to the foot of the mountain from the nearest city, nabak, you have to hike your way up a long, steep rocky trail towards what looks like a medevil castle built right into the face of the rocks above. The monastery was discovered by an italian monk abandoned since the 13th century, who found donors to restore it to it's former glory, and it is now a fully functioning monastery. The only difficulty for the monks is that it has become a destination for spiritual hippie europeans who make a sort of pilgrimage to the site and stay for weeks at a time meditating and living a sort of communal existance. Everyone helps prepare the food, everyone cleans up, there are 'silent hours' where nobody can talk for hours at a time, and most people sit in the restored chapel that has amazingly vivid frescoes from the 11th century and read scripture or look very reverent. There are rooms available to visitors at no charge, however when they fill up, the only other option is to sleep in one of the dozens of caves that surround the monastery, complete with mattresses and heaters (for the winter).

We decided we wanted to get home for cheap, and so hiked back through the mountains to the nearest village, about 8km away and ended up getting lost, asking some bedouin shepards for directions, finding a cement factory and hitching a ride back with a cement truck.

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