If you’re interested in traveling to the Middle East but aren’t sure where to begin, be like the Pope: kick-start your trip through the holy land in Jordan. With its welcoming people, small size and manageable number of sacred sites, Jordan is the place to go biblical.
Start at piney Mt. Nebo, where Moses first beheld the Promised Land of the Canaanites. In the valley below, Jerusalem’s golden dome (the Temple of the Rock) and the salty white shores of the Dead Sea glisten in the sun like the North Star did for the Three Magi.
If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the babbling brooks of milk and honey, the tumbling of the walls in neighboring Jericho, and the history echoing through the quilted valley below (Deuteronomy 32:49-50).
Bethany beyond the Jordan
Down by the banks of the muddy Jordan River lies Bethany beyond the Jordan. Amidst the wispy tamarisk, willow, and poplars trees, Jesus was baptized here in this once mighty river by his closest friend and companion, John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13). If you R.S.V.P. and B.Y.O. Priest you can be baptized here too.
John the Baptist loses his head
Heading south, you’ll soon be rewarded with breathtaking views of the crystalline waters from the lowest point on earth: the Dead Sea. From its sodium-encrusted shoreline, the windswept hills undulate towards the heavens.
Between heaven and hell, at the sleepy shepherd’s village of Mukawir, Herod the Great’s castle ruins perch precariously atop a 700m hillock.
This is where Herod Antipas, Herod the Great’s successor, had the head of John the Baptist served up on a silver platter at the request of the legendary seductress Salome, his niece and step-daughter (Matthew 14:9-12).
Sodom & Gomorrah
The further south you go, the more scandalous the stories become. Towards the Nabataean ruins of Petra, not far from the village of Safi, you’ll find Lot’s Cave. Lot and his two daughters took refuge here from the fire and brimstone that destroyed the original sin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
While no remains of Lot or his daughters were ever found, not far from the cave stands a pillar of salt that many believe to be what’s left of Lot’s wife. By disobeying the warnings of the angels to not look back at the razing of her beloved twin cities she was sodium-ized for all eternity (Genesis 19:30).
The cooler, older brother of Moses
Within hiking distance from Petra, amidst the iron-stained sandstone of Wadi Musa (the well of Moses) is Jebel Haroun. On top of this mount — revered by Muslims and Christians alike — is the tomb of Aaron, Moses’ cooler, older brother.
Pay homage here to the man described in the book of Exodus, and later popularized in church camp songs, as the one who dared to say “Pharaoh, pharaoh, hey-ho, let my people go…”
For even more advice on where to head if you find yourself in the region, make sure you read 6 Under-the-Radar Destinations in the Middle East.
If you’d like a peek at a Matador member’s experiences traveling in the area, Middle East Travel: By the Numbers should put a smile on your face.
Related ArticlesJump to More Related Articles ↓
Baxter Jackson's goal in life is to visit every country on earth before he dies. He's 39 now and has seen only 26% of it. Think the dude'll make it? Keep track at his blog Dude Travels To Go.