The narrow rock defile north of Maaloula is called by the local inhabitants the siq and (not entirely seriously) compared with the defile at Petra in Jordan. This part of the town and the high ground above and around the town was used for Roman and Late Antique burials.
This is a view of the distinctive houses of Maaloula that are built on top of each other terraced into the steep-sided valley in which the town is located.
The Church of St. Thecla today is a modern convent and orphanage for young girls run by Rum Orthodox nuns, as with the convent at Saydnaya. The shrine is believed by local people to be the place that the rocks opened to receive St. Thecla as she fled an attempted rape. The story is known from the early Christian text called The Acts of Paul and Thecla and most people locate these events in Asia Minor, but there is a long-standing Syrian tradition of placing these events in Maaloula.
Saydnaya means "Our Lady" and the town has evidence of very early Christian occupation. Dominating the settlement is the vast Rum (Arabic speaking Greek Orthodox) Orthodox convent where the sisters also care for orphaned girls. The convent has been expanded over the centuries, but its origins are believed to be C6th. It is most famous for its icon of the Virgin which is believed to have been painted from life by St. Luke and which is believed to help women praying for fertility.