After an hour in Lalish, we drove towards the ancient Assyrian town of Alqosh, located 50km (31 miles) north of Mosul.
Here Alqosh is primarily inhabited by ethnic Assyrians of the Chaldean Catholic Church and remains one of the few places on this planet where the Neo-Aramaic language is still spoken.
Once reaching town, a road to your right leads up into the mountains.
Drive for a few minutes and you’ll see Saint Matthew Monastery‘s cousin, the Rabban Hormizd Monastery.
Founded about 640 AD by Rabban Hormizd and carved out in the mountains 28 miles north of Mosul, it was the official residence of the Church patriarchy before becoming a prominent Catholic monastery after unifying with Rome in the early 19th century.
Once you park your car at the lot, climb up the 100+ steps to the top. You can see that it was a former burial site for the Christian patriarchy.
There’s a cave underneath where reportedly a man lived here for 20 years before moving to California. I couldn’t find any news reports about it, but the story has stuck and tour guides still talk about it today.
The views from the monastery:
There’s a lonely church at the very top with nobody around:
Within the interior wall of the church is a doorway that leads to a network of caves built within the mountain. They once housed monks who were living and studying here.
The caves, the church, and the monastery have now been completely abandoned; a newer site was built in 1859 1 mile away to house the monks in a safer location. The ancient monastery today is now a simple tourist site and a place to pray for those passing by.
After about 30 minutes here Abdallah and I kicked back with a Coke and watched the rest of Mosul go by.
We then drove back to Erbil in the evening.
And just for the heck of it, Abdallah and I bought some fruits for his family on the way back.
I then hung out at Abdallah’s place eating fruit with his family before heading back to my hotel for the night.
– At time of posting in Alqosh, Iraq, it was 59 °F – Humidity: 95% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: rain