Sunday, June 26, 2011

Madaba, Mt. Nebo, the Baptismal Site and the Dead Sea

The Church of St. George
Yeah, you read it correctly... I went to all of those places in the same day and it was pretty darn spectacular I must admit!  I suppose I should tell you about my adventures so here we go!

Mosaic factory...
  We started off our journey in Madaba which is about an hour south of Amman and a historically Christian city and famous for it's amazing mosaics and frescoes.  We visited the church of St. George in downtown Madaba, which is an ancient Greek Orthodox Church.  It has been rebuilt many times and on the floor is a huge mosaic map built hundreds of years ago that details the sites of the Holy Land.  It has been partially destroyed multiple times by earthquakes, but is magnificent none-the-less.  After the visit to the church of St. George we went to a local mosaic 'factory' where disabled individuals from the community were given work creating beautiful mosaics by hand and selling them to Tourists like ourselves.  Unfortunately they were huge, heavy, and really expensive but beautiful and also amazing to see created.  The great thing is that anything large enough that you buy they can ship for free to anywhere in the world which means you can buy huge, heavy and beautiful furniture if you so desire.  Just make sure you love it because it's gonna be pricey!  I bought an awesome gift for one of my brothers that although it isn't exactly what he told me he wanted, the workmanship and story behind it more than make up for that.  It'll be a great ornament peace.

  Next on the stop was Mt. Nebo, the sight where Moses saw the Holy Land and passed his mantel to Joshua.  Although it wasn't an amazingly spectacular PLACE it was amazing to be in such a place and to see the Holy Land.  To know that Moses traveled for so long and to be halted at the gates of the promised land must have been horrible, and seeing the lushness of the Jordan valley below me I could definitely understand how wonderful it would have been to see that place after 40 years wandering in the desert.  Definitely a sight for sore eyes.  It was a beautiful view and only created a longing to see and experience more of what I saw before me.
What Moses saw from Mt. Nebo

The baptismal sight and me in all of my
 glorious American touristness
  The next stop was the proposed Baptismal Site of Jesus Christ.  Apparently in the past few years it has been upgraded immensely and definitely westernized.  A lot of the tour you get to see from the beauty of an air-conditioned bus while listening to an "Audio-Tour" (My wonderful friend that everyone else in the group hates immensely).  Anyway, the tour takes about 2 hours because they show you a bunch of things that no body cares about and then push you a long from the places you actually want to see.  I thought it most interesting, that the way they justified this is the baptismal sight is that there were so many old churches built here and new churches springing up.  Also the fact that the pope came in 2007 and dedicated the land from Elijah's hill (supposedly the place where Elijah was lifted into heaven on a chariot of fire).  One of the reasons they do this is because there is another purported baptismal sight close to the sea of Galilee on the Israeli side of the Jordan.  This means it's a competition to get more tourists and also to just have bragging rights.  My whole thing is that there is really no way we can know where Christ was baptized or where pretty much any of the events of his life happened exactly.  It's nice to think and speculate, but it isn't the place that mattered but the action that occurred there which is important.  Anyway, it was a beautiful tour and by far the best part was the Jordan River.

The Jordan River
  My experience at the Jordan River was quite interesting.  On the Jordanian side of the river there was a beautiful and rustic wooden structure that led down the river in two tiers.  It ended with a simple wooden stairway leading you down to the green water of the Jordan and the beautiful mud and reeds of the bank.  Now, only 10ft away was Palestine or Israel depending on who you talk to.  Since Palestine refers to the whole ancient region and I'm not sure if that was actually the state of Israel or occupied Palestine I will simply call it Palestine for simplicity.  Well, the Palestine side of the river was developed and open.  They had concrete and rock buildings, a rock sitting area in the water, and fenced off areas for individuals to walk into the water but not cross into Jordan.  In addition to the fence, there were two Israeli Guards with M-16s and one Jordanian with a British Submachine Gun.

Here is where I go on a bit of a brain adventure, if you'd like to see what about please read my post entitled "Natives, who the Heck are they?".

  Overall, the baptismal site was awesomeness squared and everyone who visits Jordan should go there and enjoy themselves while there.  Like I said, it's been westernized (including the price of 12 JD) but is very nice.

Just Chilling in the sea!
  Our final stop was the amazing Dead Sea (باحر متت) and the joys of "Amman Beach".  Now, pretty much everyone knows that the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, has so much salt that almost nothing can live in it and it's really easy to float in but there is SOOOO much more than that.  Actually, I guess there isn't really much more than that but that makes it amazingly fun.  The only bad part about the Dead Sea is that if the water gets in your eyes or mouth you hurt like hell and have to shut your eyes tight until you can wash them out.  This may or may not have happened to me twice.  Also, the sand is so hot that if you don't have sandals you will literally (or hyper-literally Jeremy) burn your feet by walking on it.  Again, I know from experience since I have blisters on the bottoms of my feet now... not fun.  All of these bad things aside, the Dead Sea is so much fun.  You can float in whatever position you can imagine.  On your stomach, on you back, on you side, curled in a ball, sitting indian-style, with all your arms and legs in the air and everything in-between.  It's like nowhere else on earth and is extremely relaxing because the water is warm (at this time of year it still feels good but apparently later on in the summer it feels like a salty warm bath) and it is oh so refreshing.  Another wonderfully relaxing aspect is that there are no waves, and nothing living to step on or bite you.  Additionally, there are no boats or loud people playing in the water because the salt destroys engines and the kids would all get salt water in their eyes and start screaming.  Basically imagine laying on water in one of those floaty things, expect you are never going to fall off.  You are cool because of the water, it's silent, and you can lay there as long as you want without using a single muscle on your body.  Yes, it is that fantastic.  I think what I need to open now is a "Sweet Sea" where instead of salt you have sugar.  Maybe it would provide all the same properties but fewer of the problems.  Of course, you would probably get tons of interesting organisms living and growing in it so maybe that wouldn't be the best idea.

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  Anyway, the place was sort of like a resort and as such had showers and a normal pool as well.  Basically the program was to get in the dead sea for awhile and relax, shower and clean yourself and then jump into the pool where you could play and swim and be cool, then jump back into the Dead Sea and repeat until tired.  In there you can also cover yourself in Dead Sea mud (apparently very good for the skin), eat, drink, read and generally be merry until your heart explodes or you have to go home.  It was amazingly fun and relaxing and honestly one of my more favorite excursions while here in Jordan.  I would like to go back sometime and experience the relaxing loveliness of the Dead Sea.

Random huge stone at Mt. Nebo

This was an actual sign on the way into the
 Mt. Nebo site
A serpent wrapped around a cross... epic

Yeah, I was that close!

This is how women swim while still in Hijjab
That's a lot of Mud!

I promise, I'm actually floating here!

Salt deposits on the Dead Sea

1 comment:

  1. very excellent! I've been to all these sites as well when I happened to visit Jordan. It was a magical experience and I did love every single day I spent on these places. I was lucky to stay at the very beautiful Moevenpick Resort and Spa Dead Sea....I'm looking forward to visiting Jordan Jek of Philippines