Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 Vacation: Jordan - Day Four - Madaba, Mt. Nebo, And Al Karak

Jordan is a Muslim country.  Some 94% of the Jordanians are Muslim.  The rest are mostly Greek Orthodox.  After spending three days exploring Muslim, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman cultures, day four of our Jordan vacation was primarily focused on Christian culture.

We checked out of our Amman hotels, got on our short bus, and headed south.  Our first stop was the city of Madaba.  The city of Madaba is roughly 45% Christian.  One of the first things I noticed as we entered the city were signs advertising liquor and beer.

In Madaba we stopped to visit an example of the Christian churches of the area, the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George.  The church is known for it's extensive mosaics including a mosaic map of the holy land dating back to the 6th century.  Our guide took us to a room with a blowup of the map and explained several landmarks on the surprisingly complete map before we entered the basilica to see it for ourselves.

Basilica of St. George - Mosaic Map of the Holy Land
From Madaba we went to nearby Mount Nebo, the supposed location of Moses' death.  There is no physical proof of this but it has been visited by two Popes so I presume is is accepted by the church.  From the top you do have some awesome views of Jericho and the Dead Sea, despite the ever present sandy haze.  This is where God gave Moses a view of the promised land before burying him, somewhere, on the mount.

There is a 4th century church and monastery on the highest point but it was being restored and we could not go in.

Near the entrance of Mount Nebo is a sculpture with representations of Jesus, Moses, and Mohamed.  While the faces of Jesus and Moses are fairly detailed, Mohammed's image is vague to satisfy Islam's prohibition on images of the prophet.

General Tours, our tour company, has a custom of taking it's guests to one charity location, a way to give back to the host country.  In Peru it was an orphanage in Cuzco.  In Jordan it was a mosaic factory outside of Madaba, and not far from Mount Nebo, that employed women and  handicapped artisans run my Queen Noor's charity foundation.  It was interesting.  We learned how mosaics were made and we had the chance to buy the finished products.

Farther south we passed through the "grand canyon of Jordan", Wadi Mujib ('Wadi' means valley in Arabic).  We stopped at a viewpoint and admired the beautiful water-worn landscape and one of the dams that was slowly choking the Dead Sea.

Wadi Mujib
Lunch time approached and we pulled into the city of Al Karak.  We ate at a restaurant facing the crusader castle of Kerak.  After another tasty buffet lunch, we explored the castle.  The crusaders built the castle in the 1140s.  The castle had been used and reused, built and rebuilt, many times over.  The castle felt bigger that the Saracen Castle we'd seen in Aljun.  There were tunnels running under the castle that we were able to walk through.  It was pretty cool.

A Chamber in the Kerak Crusader Castle.
There was a geocache at the castle which I failed to find.  My geo-senses and my luck just weren't working on this trip.

Kerak was the last stop today.  The rest of the day was a driving south, passing by dry farm fields and desert landscapes, ending in Wadi Musa, a town located near Petra.  Our hotel was only a few hundred feet from the entrance.  We checked in and got to our room in time to watch the sunset.  Pictures can be found here.

Sunset Over Wadi Musa.

2 comments:

  1. My first thought on reading the description of the statue was "uh oh, HD's gonna get in trouble for posting that picture." Glad to read further on that the statue is constructed in such a way that you won't!

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  2. GH: I thought of that myself and have been a little more careful.

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