After another busy week of classes, my internship, and hanging out with American and Jordanian friends, on Saturday we went on a trip appropriately titled “Biblical Jordan” that our program prepared for us. We met early on Saturday morning in front of the university and boarded buses to tour several of the religious sites in Jordan.
First, we headed to the Jordan River and the site of Jesus’ burial. I could feel my ears pop as our bus drove down to the river, which is below sea level. After arriving, we walked down a short trail, and arrived at the site of Jesus’ baptism.
As you can see, there was no water there when we visited, but a part of the Jordan River used to flow there. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t determined that this was the actual baptism site until recently. Before, they had thought that he was baptized on the other side of the river, but various evidence from the Bible and excavations made them revise that claim. In 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the site to see where Jesus was baptized and visit some of the other sites we would head to later.
Next, we continued down the trail to the Jordan River. The river was surprisingly narrow, and we were less than a stone’s throw from the tourists on Israel’s side of the border. We were able to wade into the river (although not too far because there was an international border only a couple feet away).
After our descent to the river, we headed up next, to Mount Nebo. According to the Bible, Mount Nebo is the place where God showed Moses the Promised Land, although Moses was not allowed to enter it. This is also the site where they believe Moses was buried, but no one knows where exactly. Unfortunately for us, the day was kind of hazy so the view from Mount Nebo was not as spectacular as it could have been, though it was still breathtaking. We still got to see across the Jordan River though and learn more about the religious history.
Then we headed to lunch in Madaba, a city close to Mount Nebo. We ate at Haret Jdoudna, one of the best restaurants in Jordan. As usual, I had more food than I could ever possibly eat and it was delicious. After lunch, I really wanted to nap, but that wasn’t in our schedule and instead we headed to St. George’s Church in Madaba. This church has a religious map made in mosaics on its floor. The map was made in the 6th century and shows many of the religious sites in the region as a guide to pilgrims. Although parts of it were lost, the detail and accuracy were quite impressive.
Finally, we headed to our final site, Mukawer. This is a hill with a fortress on top where John the Baptist was beheaded by King Herod. The story was interesting and the view was beautiful as we could see the sun setting over the Dead Sea.
After that, we headed home. I was quite tired but it was a day I’ll never forget!