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July 25, 2006 – A journey to Madaba And Surrounds, Jordan in Middle East

Crossing Jordan

Had no idea what to expect from the country Jordan after flying into the Amman airport from Cairo. The main thing I had heard about this country was how dangerous it is (synonymous to Syria and the rest of the Middle East) and that I shouldn’t go. I think I was in a strange sort of dubious awe when I exited the airport.

Previously arranged a driver for airport pickup to overnight in a small town called Madaba. Situated on the outskirts of Amman, Madaba is known as the most religiously tolerant as well as Christian town in Jordan. Madaba is also known for having a church that hosts a 19th century old mosaic map of the biblical sites in the Middle East.

Since we had only two full days in Jordan, we all decided to just hire the airport driver to take us to the most noted sites. Jordan is known for:
1) Petra
2) biblical sites (e.g., Mount Nebo, Bethany Beyond the Jordan/Baptism Site, Karak Crusader Castle), and
3) natural wonders (e.g., Wadi Rum, Dead Sea).

On the first day, made visits to the biblical sites since they were closest to Madaba and along the route down to Petra. Mount Nebo, the first stop, was where Moses died after seeing the Promised Land (now known as Israel) for his people (the Jews who escaped from being slaves in Egypt). It was great to see a few tourist groups there despite all the bad press the Middle East is getting. I think it was reassuring for Rick to see his fellow country-people, too (a large group from Taiwan was there).

looking out to the Promised Land

The second stop turned out to be Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Had to be escorted by a mandatory tour guide at this site, since it’s right by the Israeli border and in a military zone. You can literally see and touch Israel. Found it interesting that several chapels that were built on top of each other, were being excavated right by the baptism site.

At Bethany Beyond the Sea, Jordanian and Israeli flags flap in the wind (the Israeli one is the very small one in the back)

the very green Jordan River

a very old chapel being excavated nearby the baptism site

After visiting Bethany Beyond the Jordan, made a relaxing trip to the Dead Sea. There I floated in the most mineralized water on the whole entire earth. I gave myself a mud scrub as well. Though I made the mistake of rinsing off my mud mask with the too-salty water. Had to walk blind to the showers on shore in an effort to not get any of the stinging salt water in my eyes (had on contacts too). Not too bright. At least my skin was as smooth as a baby’s butt afterwards. Rick didn’t want to partake in any of the Dead Sea business since he had an open wound on the bottom of his foot. He said tasting and touching the water was good enough for him.

floating away in the very buoyant and salty Dead Sea - right across, you can see the mountains of the West Bank in Israel and the Palestinian Territories

salt banks along the Dead Sea

The last stop for the day before heading into Wadi Musa (town next to Petra) was at Karak. Karak is home to a Crusader Castle where Crusaders and Muslims under Salah Ad-Din fought. The movie, The Kingdom of Heaven, tells the story of the place and characters. Wandering around the ruins and underground tunnels and rooms was rather spooky, but interesting – knowing the fact that people actually lived there.

a cross in the ruins

a dimly lit underground tunnel

I found it interesting that religion and culture are so interrelated in much of the history and sites in Jordan. I expected this to be the case here, but more so in Israel. It may look like I’m going on some type of Bible trail, but really, it’s a historically cultural route as well.

What a great trip!
Commented by ANDREA on 03-09-07 18:02:19

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