Alqōsh or Alqūsh (Syriac: ܐܠܩܘܫ, Arabic: القوش) is one of the most famous Assyrian (Chaldean rite) towns in Iraq. It is located 30 kilometers north of Mosul. The name Alqosh (or Elqosh) is derived from a compound Assyrian Akkadian name Eil-Kushtu, where
"Eil" means God and "Kushtu" means righteousness or power. Therefore, Elqosh, or as casually pronounced Alqosh, means "The God of Righteousness" or "The God of Power."The name "Alqosh" could also be originated from the Aramaic "Eil Qushti," which means "The God of the Bow." Here, an association could be drawn in conjunction with the winged disk symbol of God Ashur holding a bow. Meanwhile, in Aramaic language, rainbow is referred to as "Qeshta d' Maran," therefore, the meaning of the "Bow of Our Lord," is possible as well. Alqosh is known also as Yimma d' Athor (Mother of Assyria) or Yimma d' Mathwatha (Mother of all Villages).. Alqosh has adorned the Bayhidhra mountains for more than twenty five centuries. The town glowingly reigns over Nineveh's northern plateau known for its fertile soil and extends southward across the other Chaldean-Assyrian towns, such as, Telassqopa (Tel Skuf), Baqofah, Batnaya, and Tel Keppe.
Alqosh traces its history back into the ancient Assyrian empire and perhaps even further back into history. The earliest mentioning of Alqosh appears in Sennacherib's era 750 B.C. as evidenced by the mural inside Sennacherib's palace that was discovered in Tel Kuyunjik/Qüyüjik (Sheeps' Hill in Turkomani) in Mosul. Behind this mural, the phrase "This rock was brought from Alqosh’s Mountain" is carved. Furthermore, a number of sites within Alqosh still carry ancient Assyrian names, for example, Sainna Neighborhood means the Moon Neighborhood and Bee Sinnat is a plain area south of Alqosh. Within approximately 3 kilometers, to the west of Alqush, lies the well known ruin of Shayro Meliktha which is marked in the Iraqi ruins Map as a temple carrying a carving of Sennacherib aiming an arrow from his bow.
Alqosh's stone dwellings are spread along its mountainous slopes up to the tip of its plateau. They share similar decorations with all other colonies within the Nineveh plains, except for the construction that recently swamped its borders, especially in the southern part of the colony to reflect the contemporary nature of building applications in the form of cement, bricks and other materials. Alqush is divided into 4 quarters: Sainna quarter to the west, Qasha quarter to the east, O’do quarter to the north, and Khatetha quarter to the south.
Conflicting opinions appear pertaining to the name Alqosh. Some believe it derives from the Aramaic language and the word Alqoshtti, which means "My god is my arrow". Others interpret it as Alqoshtta, the god of justice. Yet some others believe it comes from Alqosh, Turkish Alkuş; the red bird. Some contend it belongs to the name AalQoun, father of Nahum the Alqoshian, one of the Old Testament prophets whose tomb still rests in Alqosh today.
Sites in Alqosh
A number of sites remain important in the deep minds of Alqoshnayes.
Gu’ppa D’Mmaya (cave of water) located to the north.
Gu’ppa Ssmoqa (the red cave) located to the north.
Gu’ppetha D’Toomin (small cave of Toomin) located to the north, and Toomin may be a proper name.
Gu’ppa D’ Magoar Gama (the Thunderous cave) located to the northeastern.
Shweetha D’Gannaweh (Sleeping bed of the Robbers) is a hill located to the north. Some of the experts interested in Alqush's history believe that Shweetha D’Ganaweh was a site for the Assyrian god Sىin.
Rommta D’Jwannqeh (Mound of the Youths) located to the northwestern.
Khoosha (the Container) located to the northwestern.
Raoolla D’Mmaya (The valley of water) located to the west.
Gu’ppa D’Hattarein (cave of Cotton’s Carders) located. In Syriac Hattarein is a plural for the word Hattara that means cotton’s carders; it was also called Khtertta and the Mosul dwellers used to call it the Khatoora and it is taken from Syriac language. The word Hatterein may have another connotation.
Kerrma D’Raysha (The Peak's vineyard), in the past the vineyard was located at the peak of the mountain.
Besqeen, an old orchard located behind Alqush Mountain in a rough trail valley. Three families own this orchard: Bendaq Youhana, Kkmikha Dman family, and Shabio Mdallow family. It resembles the remains of a Monastery that was erected some 10 centuries ago. The inhabitants of Alqush knew the orchard as full of fruits and vegetables and water. Up until the thirties of the twentieth century, Jebrail Youhana worked in the orchard. The name Besqeen is a plural Syriac that means water pond.
Galeeya D’Qasha Hanna (Priest Hanna's Valley) located to the north.
Tellsha derived from (Toullsha) which is a material used in spreading and covering. This place may have been used by Nader Shah, the Persian ruler, as a rest area when he invaded the region in 1732 and 1742 A.D.
Galeeya D’Dayra or Galeeya D’Qadeesha (valley of the Saints or Valley of the Monastery the), a valley leading to Rabban Hermizd monastery located in the northeastern corner of Alqush. It is an old monastery that can be traced back to the time when Arab Muslim started to invade the region in 636 A.D. Till recently, the monastery was housed by its monks who preferred to worship within its vast expanse and labor in its orchards and farms.
Towards the plain side opposite to this site, Virgin Mary's monastery (Guardian of the Plants) is situated, which was built in 1856 A.D. It is a huge monastery where the friar life still exists. The Guardian of the Plants monastery was named Ishtar, the gods of love, fertility, and abundance for the Babylonians.
Galeeya Dnerba D’Deyoeh (erroneously pronounced as Neer D’Dayoeh), the valley of Devils, located to the east of Rabban Hermizd Monastery.
Gu’ppetha D’Hllwi(D’Hllabi), a place for milking sheep.
Gu’ppetha D’Rrabi Rabba, a Small Cave of High Priest(teacher).
Prophet Nahum and Alqosh
AalQoun father of Nahum was the son of a Hebrew family among thousands whom the Assyrian king Shelmenassar V who reigned between 727-722 BC brought to Alqosh. These Hebrews lived in peace with the Alqoshniye and even became prophets such as Biblical Nahum. The interpretation that seems most logical relies on Marotha, the Alqusheian Wiseman from three centuries ago who asserted that the name Alqush is derived from Sîn, the god known as Siin meaning the greatest god. Its site was located at Shweetha D’Gannaweh, a hill at the north of Alqush. In this respect, Marotha relays what his ancestors have stated that those living in Nineveh would visit Alqush every Akitu (the Assyrian New Year) to replay the Enuma Elish which is the Sumerian Epic of Creation. They then would have a religious ceremony in honor of the moon godSin and the image or icon of the god would be carried in a procession on their way back to Nineveh passing through the old Nineveh Alqush road. However, to its south another agricultural area known as Bee Siinnat is clearly derived from the word Siin. Forty days later the inhabitants of Nineveh would return the statue or icon of the god to its original place in Alqush. Based on the foregoing, we believe that the name Alqush is taken from the Assyrian or earlier Sumerian name for god Siin/Alqush. Some Sumerologist claim that Inanna the Sumerian goddess of love and war was also the offspring of the moon god Sin or as he is originally called Nanna. Alqoshniye are still awaiting the day when excavations in the said hill, Shweetha D’Gannaweh, will unravel new landmarks that attest the place's Assyrian or perhaps even earlier identity.
Since its establishment, Alqush was a place for worshiping whether for Assyrian god El-Qustu or Judaism when various Hebrew peoples were brought by the Assyrian army during the eight and ninth century BC. However, with the spread of Christianity, Alqush was among the first Mesopotamian to accept the new faith as their own. According to the memoirs of Mar Mikha of Nohadra (Dohouk) when he visited the city in 441 AD he was welcomed by priests of a church built on the ruins of the temple of Alqush's ancient god Siin. Alqush has been an important city since the beginning of history in Mesopotamia but it became an important city for Eastern Christianity after the coming of the monk Hirmiz who built an abbey known after him as "Rabban Hirmizd Monastery" in 640 AD at the outskirts of the Mountains of Alqosh. This monastery was used as the Seat for many Patriarchs of the Church of the East. It also became the birth place of Chaldeanism when the head of the monks of the monastery, Yohannan Sulaqa, decided to enter in Full Communion with the Catholic Church in 1553.
Christianity and Alqosh
Since its establishment, Alqush was a place for worshiping whether for the Sumerian god Sin, who was also worshiped at Ur as the Sumerian equivalent Nanna, or for the god El-Qustu. Alqosh was also a site of worship for the Hebrew peoples when they were brought by the Assyrian army during the eighth and ninth century BC. However, with the spread of Christianity, Alqush was among the first Mesopotamian cities to accept the new faith as their own. According to the memoirs of Mar Mikha of Nohadra (Dohouk) when he visited the town in 441 AD he was welcomed by priests of a church built on the ruins of the temple of Alqush's ancient god Siin.
Alqush became an important town for Eastern Christianity after the coming of the monk Hirmiz who carved out a monastery out of the mountains of Alqosh. This abbey is called "Rabban Hormizd Monastery" which was crafted in 640 AD at the outskirts of the Mountains of Alqosh. It was used as the Seat for many Patriarchs of the Church of the East. From this monastery came Yohannan Sulaqa, who decided to unite with the Catholic Church in 1553 and established the Chaldean Church.
Before that all of the inhabitants of Alqosh, like their brothers in other Chaldean towns, followed the Nestorian faith. From 1610 to 1617 the Patriarchate of Alqosh, under Mar Eliyya VIII, entered in Full Communion with Rome. After this short time union, from about the 1700 also Alqosh had a Chaldean minority, and in 1771 the patriarch Eliya Denkha signed a Catholic confession of faith, but no formal union resulted till the reign of patriarch Yohannan VIII (Eliya) Hormizd (1760-1838).
By 1780, most of the inhabitants of Alqush accepted the union with the Catholic Church. There were and are also individuals of Alqosh who adhere to their own believes.
The monastery of Rabban Hormizd (Notre-Dame des Semences)
The monastery of Rabban Hormizd is carved out in the mountains about 2 miles from Alqosh. It was found in the seventh century and has been the See of the Patriarch of the Eliya line of the Church of the East from 1551 and 1804. Revived in 1808 by Gabriel Dambo, in the 19th century it was been the main monastery of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
In 1859 a new monastery (Notre-Dame des Semences) was erected in the plain near Alqosh, but the ancient building is still in use.
The collection of manuscripts of this monastery is of very great importance for the study of Syriac literature, and manuscripts from it feature in almost every discussion of Syriac texts.
Alqosh under attack
Since Alqosh housed the abbey of Rabban Hirmizd which was used as the Seat for several patriarchs of the Chaldean Church it attracted the attention of several Muslim governors of its surrounding areas. In 1743 Alqush became a victim to the destructive acts of the Persian sovereign Nader Shah.
According to the testimony written in a letter by the Priest Habash Bin Jomaa from 1746, he describes; "... first they attacked Karamles and stole its peoples valuables and kidnapped many of its children and women. They then did the same to the inhabitants of Bartella they killed many of her men, stole their valuables, and also kidnapped its children and women. They did the same to the people of Tel Keppe and Alqush, however, many of those two neighboring villages took refuge at the Monastery of Rabban Hirmizd. There they were surrounded by the soldiers of Nader Shah who attacked them like a pack of hungry wolves attacking helpless sheep. There they committed horrendous crimes that I just don't have the stomach to describe!"
In 1828, Alqush was attacked by the army of Mosa Pasha, the governor of Amadeya, who was instigated by some of his Muslim subjects to attack the Rabban Hirmizd Monastery which he did. His army arrested and imprisoned several monks and priests and caused tremendous damage to the monastery.
In 1832, Alqush was attacked again by the Kurdish Governor of Rowanduz, nicknamed "Merkor" whose hatred for Christians and Assyrians is well known. He killed over 400 of its inhabitants. Merkor attacked Alqosh again on 15 March 1833 and killed another 172 of its men, not counting children, women, and strangers (according to church records).
In 1840, Alqush was once again attacked by the brother of Merkor, Rasoul Beg, who surrounded it for several months after which he put on fire the Rabban Hirmizd Monastery and stole over 500 of its valuable books.
Alqush through history has battled many fights for its worthy life. Such as:
Their tragedy by the Moguls and Tartars in 1235 A.D.
Their resistance to tribes attacking from the north and west and from Mosul area in 1258 A.D.
Alqush was attacked by the Tatars or Tartars prince Betaymewsh in 1289 A.D.
A strike by the Iranian Nader Shah Koli Khan in 1742 A.D.
Mosa Pasha, the governor of Amadiya, approached Alqush and put fire to Rabban Hermizd Monastery in 1828 A.D.
Mohammed Pasha (Mira Koor), the prince of Rowanduz attacked Alqush. killing, robbing and raping. Those killed among the young members only were around 380 in 1832 A.D.
Resoul Beck, Mira Koor's brother, repeated the attack in 1834 A.D.
Ismail Pasha of Amadiya in 1842 attacked it and robbed Rabban Hermizd Monastery, detained its head Hanna Jesra together with a number of monks.
Groups of Alqusheans faced the atrocities and aggressions of Klan, one of the heads of Sendiya Tribe, and his mercenaries and killed him in 1876 A.D.
Al Sheikh year incident in 1899 where many of Alqusheans immigrated after Haji Agha Al Desooki attacked Alqush and demanded that Alqusheans join him in attacking the Kurdish Mesrouie tribes.
In 1903 A.D., the youth of the colony steadfastly to repeal the aggressions launched by Khalid Agha Al zaydki till they captured and imprisoned him together with his men in shear humiliation.
In 1905 A.D. they revenged the murder of Segha Khosho by the Kurdish Horman Tribe who came to Alqush to purchase wheat. The Alqusheans killed four whose tombs remained in the houses of Alqush till recently.
In the same year, they defeated sixty armed Kurds of the Zedkiya Tribe who wanted to take kickbacks.
In 1919 A.D., they followed the children of some Arab tribes and forced them to leave the sheep they stole earlier.
In 1924 A.D, they revenged from the Tohla Tribe of Mosul that murdered Yousif Oudo in the Plains of Alqush. They killed two of the aggressors.
The attack carried by Farouq Beck in 1969, the younger brother of the Yezediya, was defeated.
Besides all these incidents, a number of natural catastrophes forced hundreds of families to immigrate due to hunger and disease:
In 1572, Alqush suffered diseases and famine.
In 1596, Cholera spread among the inhabitants; as a result, 700 died. Priest Israel Shkwana described this tragedy in a poem written in 1611.
In 1711, hunger and high cost of living returned.
In 1757, the grasshopper year, known as the grasshopper year due to the destruction this bug/insect inflicted on the agricultural crops. It is reported that the flocks of grasshoppers blocked the sun's light during the day's peak time.
In 1778, plague attacked Alqush and killed many of its people.
In 1842, cholera again arrived and eliminated hundreds of Alqushean of various ages.
Between 1866 and 1869, another wave of hunger and high cost of living dominated the place.
In 1880 extreme high prices appeared.
In 1906, a well-known agricultural insect, alsouna, inflicted heavy comprehensive damages in the agricultural crops.
Between 1907 and 1908, alsouna appeared again to damage flour crops.
Between 1917 and 1918, World War One caused extreme high prices.
According to the latest statistics, Alqush's population reaches over 15,000. Alqush's population at one point was over 20,000, during the 1960s and perhaps an even higher population in the beginning.... Many immigrated outside the country in huge numbers as from the mid seventies and up until present. It is estimated that at least 40,000 Alqushnaye/Elkoshites immigrants ant their 2nd and 3rd generations now live in the city of Detroit, Michigan and San Diego, California.
The Alqoshniye (Elkoshites) speak Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the ancient language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. The Aramaic language is their first language, but Arabic is their unofficial official language and some of them are fluent in Kurdish as well. There are many Alqoshniye who speak over five languages since they have become travelers of the world. When Elkoshniye migrate to the west, they teach their children the Alqoshi dialect of Aramaic rather than Arabic in order to keep the language and the dialect alive.
The popular clothing for men is identical to that of the Kurdish peoples. It is believed that the men of Alqush adopted this clothing at the end of the 19th century as they gradually abandoned their historic clothing which was long pants and "zaboon". Instead of the turban, they would throw braids. Their features and clothing brings them close to their Assyrian or even Sumerian forefathers and practices, just like the people of Sinjar who still adhere to the same dress to the present time.
As for women, their clothings originality extends to the history of Mesopotamia (Bet Nahreen). Some signs of the Hatra's kingdom clearly appear in the Poosheya that adorns the head and in the Mazer worn by the women. The Assyrian signs in the Alqushian female would appear in the long braids made of wool that extend to her ankle after connecting it to the woman's original braids. The Alqushean women exaggerated wearing golden and silver ornaments around their neck and ear and in her Poosheya that used to cover her head, that was decorated with colorful beads. The forehead was surrounded with a golden belt that skirts this Poosheya front the front side whereas black strings dangle from both sides. The skirted part of various colors and decorations would cover the woman's body from the front after it hangs from the shoulder to extend to the two knees.
Cultural and religious situation
Alqush, like so many other Iraqi cities which depended on its own economy and resources, had a high percentage of illiteracy, but that does not prevent having a long standing educational movement represented by Mar Mikha Al Nuhedri School at the beginning of the fifth century. The efforts of priests and deacons who stressed teaching the Aramaic language and its literature and many of them left their writings. Their names glow like the comforting light of the moon. Some of those names are:
Reverend Attaya AlMeqdesi in 1517, a writer and a great calligrapher.
Reverend Hermizd Alqushi, writer and poet in Aramaic, lived in mid sixteenth century till the dawn of the seventeenth.
Reverend Israel Alqushi, writer and poet in Aramaic, founder of writers and calligraphers school, 1541-1611.
Reverend Yosip Qasha Keryakoos- writer and poet, probably in the same era as Israel.
Reverend Georgis Alqushi, talented in Aramaic.
Reverend Yelda, son of Reverend Aabid Yeshoaa, writer and literary figure in Aramaic during the eighteenth century.
Reverend Israel, son of Reverend Shemaa’on son of Reverend Israel, known as the Israel junior, writer and poet, lived in the eighteenth century.
A number of Alqushean men have their names planted in the conscious of the people of Alqush among them are:
Yosip Rayes (Kozlah)
Toma Thomas, a freedom fighter
After World War I and after establishing the kingdom rule in Iraq, the first elementary school was founded. The school taught topics in Arabic till the fourth grade and it gradually improved to offer six-year education. The Alqushean graduates of the elementary school were forced to pursue their education for the intermediate and secondary school in Baghdad, Mosul, Dehuk, and even Telkeppeh. After the national revolution of 1958, the first intermediate school in Alqush was established. Currently, Alqush houses the following schools:
Alqush Official Kindergarten
Alqush First Elementary School for Boys
Alqush Elementary School for Girls
Alqush Second Elementary School for Boys
Alqush Secondary School for Boys (Intermediate and secondary)
Alqush Secondary for Girls
Commerce Secondary School
The residents of Alqush are Christians belonging to the Chaldean Catholic Church. Alqosh of course also houses many individuals who adhere to their own philosophies.
Alqush was a Patriarch center for this church for many centuries. A number of Alqusheans became Patriarchs themselves when it became hereditary in Aboun's family (Aamokka). Eleven Patriarchs consecutively were from this family to head the Church of East. Their tombs are still in Rabban Hermizd Monastery:
Mar Shemaa’on VI, 1504-1538
Mar Shemaa’on VII Bermama, 1538-1551
Mar Shemaa’on the eighth Denkha, 1551-1558
Mar Elia VI, 1558-1576
Mar Elia VII, 1576-1591
Mar Elia VIII, 1591-1617
Mar Elia IX Shemaa’on, 1617-1660
Mar Elia X Youhana Merojean, 1660-1700
Mar Elia XI Merojean, 1700-1722
Mar Elia XII Denkha, 1722-1778
Mar Elia XIII Esho Eyaab, 1778-1804
Also, Alqush is honored with another 5 of her sons to head the Chaldean Catholic Church as Patriarchs:
Most of Alqosh inhabitants practiced dry agriculture since the olden days and relied on the fertile plains to the south, protecting the city on the parameters of the village to have the necessary agricultural products like grain, wheat, beans and summer products such as cantaloupe and cucumber. Farmers followed old non-technological methods in their farming for several centuries, and their livelihood was always threatened due to nature's betrayal in situations of lack of rain or plant epidemic such as soona and grasshoppers.
Towards the beginning of the sixties, Alqosh was introduced to agricultural machinery such as tractors, harvester-threshers (reapers), in addition to methods of treating and curing plant epidemic. However, irrigation means were and still are missing in the area, and farming still relies on rain. Currently, farms belong to the government and are deputized to their owners to use them after they were completely owned by their rightful owners.
Besides these huge lands, grapevines spread all over the village and produce various types of grapes, among which are the black grapes that are well known in the northern region. Some of those who are interested in the history of Alqosh believe that there were over two hundred vineyards in the village. Below are names of some of these vineyards:
Up until recently, Alqush enjoyed being an important trade center for the Kurdish, Yezide, and Arabic villages surrounding it as it housed an active market and many cabins receiving agricultural and animal products from all of these villages. Its market are full of stores and shops containing all types of commodities for shoppers of the region. A number of trades helped manufacture many of the goods used by the residents of the city and rural areas:
Carpentry - making agricultural tools such as sickles
Making packsaddle for mules and donkeys
Knitting - needle work
Dying - dying local yarns
Tailoring - tailoring the clothes of the region using local or imported fabric
Tinsmithery - whitening kitchen utensils that were made of tin in the past
Jewelry making silver and golden ornaments
Sesame mills to produce Tahiniyi (Metthanat Bet Yaldkou, Metthanat Bet Khoubear, Metthanat Bet Bejee)
Prepare annual ration from wheat such as Bulgur (crushed wheat), Granule, and Grits. The important tools used for this purpose are Denng, granulating machine, and Reshda making machine.
In addition to that, the residents of Alqush raised cattle, sheep, and bees. It is important to note that Alqush has no river, and it used to rely on springs and wells water that were dug by their forefathers in the beginning of life on Earth. It also has some valleys that have winter water which run through them, though some had water passing through them during summer as well. Some of these water wells and water fountainheads are:
Aaynna Mehalat or quarter Sainna- the old fountainhead (Aaynna Aateqtta)
Keshffah - it was in Mehalat or quarter Sainna previously
Aaynna Mehalat or quarter Qasha
Aaynna Albaladiya - used to be in Hamietha area
Aaynna Al Zeqayee - a very old fountainhead that used to be in Mehalat or quarter Qasha on Aaynna Zeqyaa valley. It was filled up with earth more than two centuries ago after an Alqushean girl from Shekwana family was killed there by the Persians.
Following are some of the wells:
In Mehalat or quarter Qasha: Shushani, Kakka, Ballo,Ramo, Khubeir, Shekwana, Bernno, Rayess
In Mehalat or quarter Khteytha: Khabeen, Ghazala, Khesrou, Cholagh, Jaji Kherou, Shahara, Khoushou, Boudagh, Shmoona, Semaa’n, Sheaa’ya Babee, Beloo, Naim Goula, Matti Goula, CHenou.
In Mehalat or quarter Sىinna: Odisho, Zorra Kchoucha, Toma Qenaya, KKina, Yeldkoo, Sippo, Goharah.
The Strongest and most well known families in Alqosh were: Shushani, Kakka, Kubeir, Ramo and Ballo
Some of the article is Originally based on an article by alqosh.net, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.
Addai Scher, Notice sur les manuscrits syriaques conservés dans la bibliothèque du couvent des Chaldéens de Notre-Dame-des-Semences, Journal Asiatique Sér. 10: 8, 9 (1906). This may be found online at Gallica by searching for "Journal Asiatique". An English translation of the first portion is at