When I was in Madaba, I went for a half-day excursion to biblical sites close to town. Those sites are Mount Nebo, Bethany and the Dead Sea. Tourists can also go on a similar excursion from Amman but I preferred to go from Madaba as the distance to the biblical sites were closer and accommodation were actually cheaper than Amman.
Mount Nebo holds a great significance for the 3 major religions in the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Having led the Israelites from the wilderness after 40 years ago, it was here – at a vantage point – Moses was granted the view of the Promised Land by God but was forbidden to enter. This momentous event took place towards the end of Moses’ life.
As stated in Deuteronomy 34:1-8, the Lord said to Moses, “This is the Land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you see this with your own eyes but you shall not cross over it”.
Moses died at the age of 120 years old and is believed to be buried somewhere in the valleys of Mount Nebo but no one knows the exact burial place. After Moses’ death, his successor, Joshua led the Israelites across the River Jordan into the Holy Land.
On a clear day, one can see Jericho and Jerusalem from the viewpoint.
A modern sculpture shaped in the form of a serpentine cross was created by an Italian artist. The serpentine cross symbolises the serpent lifted by Moses in the wilderness and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Also, the sculpture was inspired by Jesus’ words in John chapter 3: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son Of Man be lifted up”.
Bethany: The Baptism Site
On the banks of the River Jordan is one of the most important discoveries in Middle Eastern archaeology – the identification of Bethany-beyond-the Jordan. Not to be confused with Bethany in Israel, Bethany-beyond-the Jordan refers to the Bethany situated on the eastern part of the River Jordan in the Gospel of St John 1:28. It is here that John the Baptist had once lived, preached and performed baptisms particularly the baptism of Jesus.
To-date, archaeologists have discovered 21 sites comprising Byzantine churches, baptismal pools, monk and hermit caves, pilgrim lodges and other medieval findings, all of which seemed to align with biblical and pilgrim accounts of this area. Hence, the Kingdom of Jordan and international experts are convinced of the authenticity of this area.
Official guides must accompany visitors as some of the sites are situated very close to the West Bank in Israel. Therefore, to prevent unwanted incidents, an official guide has to accompany the local shuttle bus tour or in your private vehicle.
The shuttle bus arrives at the Visitors’ Centre every 15-20 minutes, and the languages spoken in the tour are firstly Arabic, followed by English. The bus tour starts off at Tell Mar Elyas (Elijah’s Hill) before dropping off at the Baptismal Pool from where visitors walk to the Church of St John the Baptist and down the trickling Jordan River. Later the bus returns to pick-up the visitors and the tour ends at the Visitors’ Centre.
The biggest open-air spa and one of the major highlights of Jordan is the Dead Sea. Why is it called the Dead Sea? The Dead Sea is 9 times more salty than the ocean, thus underwater plants and animals cannot survive in its water. The Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan River which originates from the Galilee River in Lebanon. However, there is no outlet for the Dead Sea and adding to its high density of salt, the water eventually evaporates. Its black mud is mineral-rich and is used for therapeutic and cosmetic treatments.
The sad thing about the Dead Sea is that the level of water flowing from the Jordan River has reduced significantly over the past decades due to political issues with Israel which has diverted much of the water from Jordan. Plus with the evaporation of water, scientists opined that the Dead Sea will no longer exist in the next couple of decades! There is talk about a project involving Jordan, Palestine and Israel whereby water is to be taken from the Red Sea and to be pumped into the Dead Sea. When that project will take place involving much billions of investments – and in my opinion, the status of Palestine is not recognised in the eyes of Israel – is questionable.
I suppose many of you are wondering if I had gone for a swim and float on the Dead Sea? Sorry to disappoint you, no, I didn’t! 🙂 I was misinformed by my driver who said that the public Amman Beach did not have any shower facilities (you need to wash off the salt after swimming), as such, I went to another public beach just to take these pictures. Moreover, there are attire rules for women and the public beaches are actually quite dirty with garbage strewn all over, thus it’s not advisable to go there.
There are private 4-star and 5-star hotels along the banks of the Dead Sea where day passes are available which includes the full use of the hotel facilities and the Dead Sea beachfronts. But the day passes cost about JOD40 on weekdays and JOD50 on weekends. It was just too expensive for me (when I converted to Malaysian Ringgit) for a few hours, hence I skipped this option too.
Another reason why I didn’t want to float on the Dead Sea? I wear contact lens. Apparently swimmers would struggle to get up after floating – hands and feet waving in the air, water splashing – salt water would get into my eyes, my contact lens, therefore I passed up the opportunity haha!
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