Northwest of Damascus, this is an arid mountain massif where rocky landscapes predominate. Remote hamlets cling to mountainsides, their siting always dictated by availability of water. Mainly Christian, it has many churches and religious communities. Some are major pilgrimage centres, like the convent of Our Lady at Seydnaya and the monastery of St Sergius at Maalula, where Aramaic is still spoken. The now revived monastery of St Moses (Deir Mar Musa) is worth seeing for its 11C wall paintings.