Above and Below Adventures would like to wish you all a Happy Easter on this Holy week, and to keep things topical our post this week will explore the many Biblical sites of Jordan. The whole of Jordan is dotted with sites of religious importance, most of them located in the Jordan Valley close to the Dead Sea and would feature in many early Christian Pilgrimage trails.
Whether you are spiritually minded, interested in history or just curious as to where the biblical stories took place, you will agree that there is so much to see in The Holy Land of Jordan.
According to the book of Deuteronomy, Moses climbed Mount Nebo to view the Promised Land. The views from the ridge here are spectacular a panoramic view of The Holy Land, with even Jericho and Jerusalem visible on a clear day. It is also reported that Moses was buried here, there is a shrine to Moses but no tomb was ever found.
The serpentine cross sculpture that features in so many photos of Mount Nebo is to symbolise the bronze serpent created by Moses in the desert and the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
There is also a church here, built on top of the site of a 4th Century Byzantine church thought to have been built to commemorate the death of Moses. Fantastic mosaics from the original church can still be seen in the new building.
Baptism Site – Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan
A site on the River Jordan where Jesus was baptised by John, sometimes referenced in the Old Testament as Bethabara, it also appears on the Byzantine Mosaic map of the Holy Land in Madaba helping to confirm it’s location. Bethany-beyond-the Jordan on the east bank of the Jordan River has been authenticated by all major Christian leaders and has even been visited by the last 3 Popes.
After the Jordan-Israel peace treaty was signed in 1996, excavations have revealed a 3rd century building with fine mosaics as well as a 5th century monastery.
The Baptism Site is open daily from :
Nov.1 – April 1 – 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Last entry 3:00 pm)
April 2 – Oct.31 – 8:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m (Last entry 5:00 pm)
You can also arrange for your own Baptism in the Holy Water of the River Jordan, but arrangements need to be made in advance.
Gadara (modern day Umm Qais) is a Greco-Roman city part of the Decapolis (10 cities) is supposedly the site where Jesus walked, taught the people and performed some of His miracles. The most famous of which is the ‘Gadarene Swine’ miracle. The story goes that Jesus came across a mad man near the entrance to the city and healed him by casting out the evil spirit and transferring it to a herd of pigs, which then ran down the hill and drowned in the Sea of Gallilee.
As well as the religious connections Umm Qais is a wonderful place for any historian to visit with its Greek and Roman influences intertwined with an Ottoman village, plus spectacular views over the Sea of Gallilee (Lake Tiberius), The Golan Heights and the Palestinian Plains.
The Dead Sea is a spectacular place in it’s own right, known for it’s healing powers, but the Jordan River Valley, the area around the Dead Sea is supposedly what the bible refers to as the ‘The Garden of the Lord’ or ‘The Garden of Eden’. It is easy to see why with the many flora and fauna species that can be found along the many trails and its highly fertile soil. (Also see Jordan in Springtime)
Along the south East coast of the Dead Sea are the sites of Bab ed Dhra and Numeira, believed to be the sites of the doomed cities Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed the cities because of the peoples wicked ways sparing only the prophet Lot and his wife (see below). On the excavation of these sites a 40 cm layer of ash was found covering the whole city, evidence that these cities met a fiery end.
Lot’s Cave and Lot’s wife (The Pillar of Salt)
Upon the destruction of the cities Sodom and Gomorrah, God spared the prophet Lot and his family and allowed them to escape into the mountains near by. God instructed them to run away and not to look back. But Lot’s wife disobeyed the order and turned around to see the cities and was instantly turned into a pillar of salt. On the cliff by a panoramic view point on the Dead Sea road, there is a tall Pillar of salt believed to be Lot’s Wife.
Further along the road you can visit the cave where Lot hid and lived with his 2 daughters. It was later turned into a monastery in commemoration of Lot.
The site of King Herod’s Palace and where John the Baptist was beheaded. A few of the columns were restored during excavations of the site. When visiting climb the winding staircase to the summit for breathtaking views of the Dead Sea.
Umm Al Rasas
A rectangular walled city, heavily fortified by the Romans and then beautifully embellished by the Christians in Byzantine mosaics. The site is an ongoing restoration project, several buildings including court yards and churches have been discovered, the most impressive by far is the Church of St Stephen with its perfectly preserved mosaic floor depicting 27 cities of the Holy Land both East and west of the River Jordan. It is the largest of it’s kind in Jordan, second only to the famous Mosaic Map in Madaba.