Deir Mar Musa El-Habashi

Deir Mar Musa El-Habashi, Maaloula

Deir Mar Musa El-Habashi
This is the Monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian and is located 80 kilometers north of Damascus.
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14 reviews
Very good

Toronto, Canada510 contributions
Magical, Spiritual Visit
Sep 2019 • Solo
Magical stay at this monastery atop a mountain overlooking the valley. The monastery is one of community, practicing the unity of religions, and with the war settling, has many visiting religious priests, sisters, etc. There are many rooms to settle, and everyone is involved in set-up of dinner and clean up. This is a place to disconnect- meditate, pray, connect with others and decompress.
Written September 10, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Mathias S
333 contributions
A very nice desert monastery
May 2018 • Friends
it is a monastery dedicated to St Moses the Black of 4th and early 5th century. It was in ruins for a long time, but it was rebuilt thanks to an Italian monk and houses now Syrian-Catholic and Syrian-Orthodox monks.

The monastery is located on a mountain in a desert area of Syria, between Damascus and Homs. Nothing grows there, just in the spring the desert someplace covers in temporary flowers.

To get there, you have to take a mini-bus. Then, walk a lot, then walk a lot of steps, it is located between two mountains with a view between them on a desert plain. The sunrises are nice. To get a view of the monastery, you can climb the mountains behind it.

The monastery ia one big, fort-like building mostly. I believe it used to be a Roman fort originally. Inside the church, there are Byzantine-like, just a bit primitive, paintings covering it completely. There's also a cave which, as it was claimed, has something to do with the 7 sleeping, but the place is obviously not right.

It is possible, as I did, to spend the Easter there. Some young local Christians do. You get free food and accomodation, although you can participate in cleaning the dishes afterwards, just don't use much water doing it, as it is scarce there.
Written April 13, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

78 contributions
a remote monastery that welcomed all...
Jul 2017 • Friends
This blog is one of the series of blogs that I will write about the amazing month that I spent in the wonderful country Syria in 2008. One of my most fondest memory of my stay in Syria was visiting Dier Mar Musa – Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian which was a monastic community of the Syriac Catholic Church located near the town of Nabk, approximately 80 km north of Damascus. A charismatic Italian Jesuit monk, father Paolo Dall’Oglio was both the head and the raison d’être of this singular desert community. In the early 1980s Paolo found this abandoned Byzantine monastery ruin and its remarkable 11th century frescoes. He founded this community, as a a beacon of hope, on the principles of poverty, chastity, hospitality and inter-faith dialogue.

This amazing monastery has preserved many layers of history including its main chapel which was built by the eponymous Moses; a 6th century Abyssinian king who first gave up worldly pleasures to become a monk in these inhospitable hills.

Wit my friend Caroline, we took a bus from Damascus and were dropped off by the road side from where we took a taxi to make the journey to the unknown. The taxi started its dusty ride into a very mountainous rocky terrain at the thirsty, desert-edge town of Nebek.

We literally had no idea where we were heading to and our telephone signals also started disappearing. Eventually the taxi dropped us in a valley and the taxi driver pointed towards a long flight of pilgrim steps that snakes up the mountainside as our destination. We undertook the final 20 minutes of travel towards the tiny windows gouged out of the sheer façade of the monastery winking down on us from above.

Far from my imagination of going into a small community of Catholic monks and nuns to be in determined retreat against excesses of the modern world, I found an eclectic and vibrant community of a happy group of people…

A French family with 2 young children, several middle-aged academics, artists in beautiful hand knitted cardigans, young college students, hippy European backpackers and Icelandic gap-year travellers…..

we were immediately welcomed into this eccentric community. One of the volunteer showed us to our rooms. We started helping the volunteers to prepare the lunch, wash the dishes and linen and immediately felt at home.

At night a beautiful silence took over the place. It was a surreal experience for me..a real retreat…far far away from the hustle and bustle of modern world.. a place to reflect and to think about my future…I bought some wool from Damascus and started knitting a scarf…while also making some very important decision of my life.

I also wondered a lot about the role of religion in our life…a mean for us to reach though to Allah…I wondered why Allah created many different religions…for those of us who are born into a religious family, we take it up as our nature and believe hat we have the best religion…what if I was born in another religion? All these thoughts were captured through some really memorable photos that I took in the Monastery.

Every morning after waking up..we thought of leaving the monastery…but the place was so captivating and peaceful that we would change our decision soon…all in all it was an amazing experience that will always stay with me.

It breaks my heart to see the Syrian war, people suffering, historical and religious places being destroyed…I pray and hope that one day the sun of peace will rise in this beautiful country and I would be one of the first travellers along with my nomad family to revisit.

I will continue with my Syria blogs with more episodes to come in future…until then ..the journey continues…

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Written June 26, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Javad Abbasi
Shiraz, Iran392 contributions
Jul 2016 • Family
I like it. I'm in love with this village and whole places in this village. Just wait to war get over and return there
Written June 2, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

London, UK511 contributions
Wonderful experience - come prepared
Jun 2010
Wonderful place to spend a few nights away from it all and to make some new friends. As one of the below posters said, the place is not designed to be a hotel, so the mattresses and blankets are very worn, there are a few spiders in the cabins etc etc, but as long as you come with these issues in mind, you'll have a great experience. There are single sex arrangements with the males staying in the lower quality accommodation of course :-)
The chapel in the monastery is beautiful, especially during candlelit services - adorned in hand paintings, each one with a story. You are not obligated to attend the services, but I would recommend it at least once for the experience and out of respect. The services are mainly conducted in Arabic, English and French - with a bit of German and Dutch thrown in depending on the nationalities of the other guests.
Guests should be prepared to muck in as far as cooking, washing up and preparing food is concerned, especially as you'll be eating it! The food is the same most days (breakfast and dinner is a mix of breads, jams, cheeses while lunch is a hot stew) but is pretty good.
During the day, it was nice to take a book up to the rocks behind the monastery and enjoy the view and think - wow, I'm actually in Syria! I did a few short hikes round there with people I met too. If you come with an open-mind and a social attitude, I guarantee you'll have a great time here.
Written May 16, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Vienna6 contributions
Worth going - but do not mind hygenie
Apr 2011
How to get there:
Take a cab from Damskus - we paid 3.500 SYP
Take a minibus from Damascus and go to Nebek and ask the driver of the minibus to drive you to Mar Musa (around 17km from Nebek) - give him around 300 SYP.

For the way back - you need to make arrangements as well - either have a driver pick you up - or take the minibus back - usually there is somebody from the monastery going into Nebek on a daily basis and they will take you.

The monastery lies in the bleak mountains - hidden away - fantastic. Walk up for 20 minutes and crawl through a tiny door of the monastery. Inside the church there a fanstastic paintings 11th cent. AC - although they seem heavily renovated.

Staying overnight has a definite charm - so you can see the life that is happening there. You can use all their facilities - their library, sit out on the porch and look over the valley. Very nice. You are asked to participate in the evening meditation - which last around 2 hours - and is quite an interesting thing to be at. Afterwards they serve dinner - we had dinner in the church as it was too cold outside. Quite an event.

The only thing about this place that one needs to point out is the hygenie situation there.
The dormitory is some kind of attic with ancient mattresses - not really a cosy place to be. Forget showering - forget washing - forget brusing your teeth. Using toilets is experience enough.

If you are not picky about those matters you will love the place. If you are picky - be well equipped - with own sleeping bad and the knowledge that you can do all the hygiene matters at a later point in time.
Written April 25, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Detroit49 contributions
pilgrimage site
this is also a site for eastern orthodox christians pilgrims.
actually not in Maaloula, but off Nabk city which is about half hour to the north, and can be assigned one day with both Maaloula and Seidnaya if christian pilgrimage is your thing...maybe St Paul's vision site 30 min south of Damascus needs a different trip.

The monastery is built where the Ethiopian prince Moses escaped his father king, and gave up being the king about 1500 years ago, and decided to become a monk and pray in this isolated arid very cold mountain.

The monastery was built about a 1000 years ago where he lived his life alone in the desert, and has one of the greatest medieval frescoes that are in three layers on top of each other..looks like the monks over hundreds of years have painted these wonderful frescoes each layer on top of the other when faded.

be careful..there are 350 steps to be is NOT for elderly..but as you are there the solitude and the isolated location is splendid.
Written July 16, 2009
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Damascus, Syria1,143 contributions
Worth the visit
The Monastry is actually well past Maaloula. You have to go through the town of Nebuk, up a winding road between the mountains. There are signs and anyone will help with directions from Nebuk.
Then you have to walk up one and a half kilometres of pathway, mostly steps made out of boulders. It is steep in places so dont attempt it if you cant make it! My husband got three quarters of the way up and gave up.
Its well worth the trouble and once there, its a beautiful view and you will find what you thought was a deserted place, full of foriegners from Europe and elsewhere, eating lunch or drinking tea from the friendly people there. There's a small beautifully decorated Church which has to be seen to be believed, and there are rooms for anyone who wants to stay there and meditate or be alone. I didnt go and see those as we were in a hurry to continue on our day out to another resort.
Anyone visiting Syria should certainly put Mar Musa on their list.
Written October 6, 2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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