No need to reach for your passport. . .this is strictly for the armchair traveler. :-)
I just created a new photo album containing images of some of the key religious sites in Jordan:
Although it is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, Jordan is officially secular and the home of many religious sites that are significant to all three of the major monotheistic faiths (i.e., Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). Even for those who aren't particularly religious or an adherent of one of the Abrahamic faiths, some of these sites are quite inspiring.
I've been to most of them and thought you might enjoy reading a few impressions.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan: You mean the River Jordan is just a little trickle?! It never occurred to me that the river wasn't some massive, flowing waterway. Imagine my surprise when a guide emerged with me from a little walk in the woods, pointed to a long puddle, and told me that's where Jesus was baptized. I could've walked across it without getting my knees wet, but then I would've been in the West Bank and probably shot on sight by all the armed guards protecting it. As a preventive measure, my guide had notified the authorities on the other side that we would be approaching the border. I didn't want to tempt them by putting a toe over. But this site is ver-r-r-r-ry close to it and highly secured.
Machaerus: Quite difficult to reach without a private car--and then a long-ish steep hoof to reach the pinnacle--but worth every gram of effort. The ruins themselves are not so impressive, but the setting is spectacular. From the top and looking west, you can see the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, the West Bank, and, on a clear day, Israel. The day I visited, the only explorers were a French couple and me. We joined forces and went in search of the cave where it is believed John the Baptist's head was left after Herod separated it from his body. We found a cave, but all three of us were too creeped out to enter.
Mount Nebo: Another site in a beautiful setting, albeit easier to reach. Upon arriving, I felt quite deeply that I really was in the Holy Land. This is where Moses is believed to have looked out over the plains of Moab to Canaan and seen the Promised Land. He is believed to be buried there, but no one has found his burial site. Hmmm. . .maybe the French couple and I should search it out. (Less spooky than looking for an untethered head.) Pope John Paul II visited Mount Nebo in 2000. I posted a photograph of him in the album. The first time I visited, an Iraqi man bought me a fossil from a Bedouin peddler at the entrance. I asked him why, and he said he just wanted me to have something to remember him by. And then he instructed his chauffeur to drive me back to Amman, saving me all kinds of logistical hassles. This was in 2003, right after we bombed Iraq. The kindness of strangers. . .and all that.
I deliberately omitted photographs of the Dead Sea (the biblical Sea of Arabah) and Umm Qais (Gadara in the bible), which looks out over the Sea of Galilee, because I plan to dedicate entire photo albums to them. Later, though.
Hope you enjoy your little trip!
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