Wadi Run, Mount Nebo and Madaba Three very different adventures!
Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) is in the far south of Jordan. It is on the western edge of the Arabian desert. and is about the size of New York City. Archeological evidence shows that Wadi Rum Desert was settled as early as 4500 BC.
The fresh-water springs made it an ideal stopover for caravans traveling between Arabia and the Levant which is historical, region along the eastern Mediterranean shores, roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and certain adjacent areas. There are inscriptions showing that the Bedouin tribes gathered here. The Nabateans certainly made their mark here in Wadi Rum as well. This site is believed to have been occupied prior to Petra.
We had booked the overnight ourselves so Hasan took us to the “Meeting Place,” a drop-off point, it was clouded in confusion!
Thanks to Hasan we found our guide and we jumped over the back into the bed of a 4×4 pick up truck. Flying through the desert in the truck was an experience, we passed a tourist caravan of camels, and some choose to ride camels part of the way to the first stop.
There are a number of stops going to the camp. Many include hieroglyphic writings and small springs. The Khazali site is rich with inscriptions and rock art, is a narrow fissure that cuts Jabal Khazali. Because it is an area where water collects in the desert, from antiquity to today, the site has been regarded as holy, and even blessed. The site contains three types of rock-art: South Safaitic, Thamudic E inscriptions or Hismaic; Arabic inscriptions in the Kufic script; and finally petroglyphs that depict humans, animals, and footprints.
We continued to a large sand dune. John and I looked to the top and decided to drag ourselves to the top was not happening so we went to the short end of the dune took a look and headed back to our truck. When we knocked on the driver’s window he put us off, he was busy with another guide looking at their iphones, so we decided to jump back into the back of the truck.
Since all of our adventures have interesting moments, John went to get back into the back of the truck, he slipped and scraped most of the skin off the front of his leg and blood was everywhere. Our guide could not speak much English and when Janice asked for some bandages or something looked at her like she had FOUR-EYES
Thanks to Sam, another guide, and his tourist Joan, they managed to find enough gauge and bandage to stop the bleeding and bandage John up. There was quite a crowd watching the operation, John was laughing and said he was the afternoon entertainment! We asked the driver to call his tour operator and get some bandages for when we got to the camp..
It was too early to go to the camp so we headed to the waiting point for the sunset in the middle of the desert, we were expecting something spectacular, it was good but not as good as some in Florida.
We arrived at the tent camp and expected to get some bandages, instead, the head of the tour company handed Janice some pills and told her to have John take them and that we did not need bandages. Well with no bacterial cleanser Janice did the best she could to change the bandage with the few gauges and bandages that Sam and Joan had given us and hoped for the best. It would not be until the afternoon of the next day that we got our hands on some antiseptic and new bandages.
The tent camp rooms had marble tile floors we expected sand! Two twin beds were pushed together for a queen and the restrooms at the end were super clean and easy to get to. We even had a heater in the room. We went out by the fire and had some tea and met some of the others there for the evening before dinner.
The first couple we met was a diplomat for the Dutch embassy with his “friend and college “ of 15 years. He was in charge of immigration at the Amman Embassy and she was an assistant to an IT director. They were both from Denmark there on a 3-5 year term. He was super interesting but, she did not like our conversations about history and politics and proceed to get her headphones and sat there like a 5-year-old. Guess affairs even in the middle of the desert are hard to manage. HAH
We sat down for dinner and sat next to a young couple from Germany and talked about travels and some politics. They were on holiday for several weeks and were headed to Saudi Arabia. We hope to hear from them about their trip in the future. Dinner was chicken and vegetables that had been cooked in a large pot buried in the sand, it was OK but not the great flavors we have had eating at Hasan’s various restaurants. We were exhausted so we headed to our tent. It was getting very cool out probably 50 degrees, so Janice tried to figure out how to turn on the gas heater in our tent. She spoke with the men running the area and asked how to turn it on. “So sorry, no heat until next month!” She was able to get a thick blanket. It got into the 40s during the night, thank God we had that blanket! In the tent next to us someone was snoring so loud it kept Janice awake for a while, John could not hear it…lucky him.
We got up around 6 am and got cleaned up a bit to head over for breakfast. They made some omelets for us, and we added the cheese and had pita bread which set us up nicely for the day. Other folks came in and were talking about how cold they had been, unfortunately, we may have gotten the only extra blanket! We were then taken back into town to the “Meeting Place,” where Hasan picked us up.
We told Hasan all the crazy stories and he said he stayed in one of the camps close by because he was not sure of the tour group we picked. We laughed about the whole experience and headed out for Mount Nebo and Magada.
We drove for about three hours to get to Mount Nebo. Hasan explained what had happened a few days earlier causing us to not be able to Mout Nebo. The problem between the tribes had been settled and it was now safe! The issue was that one of the men from the opposing tribe was found not guilty of a crime by the courts, the other tribe felt justice had not been served so they were angry and trying to get even. Apparently, another tribe intervened and the problem was resolved, we were allowed to go up to the Mount.
Mount Nebo – Where the Prophet Moses Died
Mount Nebo is where Moses died, or so it is thought. God has not chosen to reveal much to us about the circumstances of Moses’ death. There are three references in the Bible to the death and burial of Moses, and each of them contributes to the mystery surrounding the story of the great prophet. We know that he was 120 years old when he died, “yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone”. Despite his age, Moses was still in his prime when he was called home.
What was Moses’ sin that caused God to not let him join the Israelites in the Promised Land?
The Israelites were dying of thirst. God asked Moses to have them surround a rock and God would make water come from the rock. Moses instead used his staff and hit the rock twice and the water flowed. Moses took credit rather than give credit to God. God’s punishment was not allowing him entry.
Mount Nebo is approximately 2,330 feet high. Mount Nebo is mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land before his death. The view from the summit provides a panorama of the West Bank and the city of Jerico and Jerusalem on a very clear day.
There are a number of small green areas in the valley, these are springs that provide water to the people, it is said they are Moses’ Tears!
Mount Nebo – The Moses Memorial Church
The Moses Memorial Church commemorates the death place of Moses, a church that was constructed in the fourth century. Since then the church was redeveloped into a basilica and now boasts a number of mosaics that date back to 530. The mosaics have been well preserved and portray images of wildlife and hunting; a local pastime in the Byzantine era.
The metal sculpture in the shape of a serpentine cross that stands on the terrace of Mount Nebo was created by the Italian artist Gian Paolo Fantoni. It recalls the bronze serpent on a pole that God told Moses to erect to protect his people from the poisonous snakes that God himself had sent as punishment. It was enough to look at the bronze serpent erected by the prophet in order to be healed and saved. The sculpture has become so popular that it is now recognized as the symbol for Mount Nebo. It represents the serpent from the Bible that Moses built to save people from the plague.
It is such a sacred place even Pope John Paul II visited the monastery on Mount Nebo. An olive tree was placed to honor his visit. This is such a peaceful place.
We departed Mount Nebo, on to Madaba.
Madaba, Jordan -The Mosaic City
Madaba currently has a population of about 60,000 and is best known for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially a large Byzantine-era mosaic map of the Holy Land, which some call the Madaba Map. Madaba dates from the Middle Bronze Age (3300-1200 BC) .
The town of Madaba was once a border city, mentioned in the bible in Joshua and Numbers. Control over the city changed back and forth between Israel and Moab.
The Moabite Stone, also known as the Mesha Stele –
First recorded recognition of Israel
The Mesha Stele contains an ancient inscription by Mesha, King of Moab during the late 9th century BC. Elements match events in the Hebrew Bible.
The inscription describes two aspects of how Mesha led Moab into victory against ancient Israel:
First, he claims to have defeated ancient Israel on many fronts, capturing or reclaiming many cities and slaying the inhabitants.
Second, Mesha claims to have reconstructed or repaired many cities and buildings, including a fortress, a king’s residence, and cisterns for water storage.
The mention of “Israel” is its earliest known written occurrence. Dhiban, ancient Dibon, where the stele was found in 1868, now the governance of Madaba, was the capital of this kingdom of Moab, located on the left bank of the Dead Sea.
An interesting sidelight to Biblical History
Church of the Holy Apostles – Madaba Jordan
Our first stop was the Church of the Holy Apostles. The church was discovered by Father Manfredi in 1902, who identified the name of the church and the date of its construction as 578 AD. From a dedication inscription found in a room at the eastern end of the church. The structure is a basilica and in the center of the nave is a medallion with a personification of the sea. The accompanying Greek inscription gives the name of the mosaicist Salman.
In 1902, Don Giuseppe Manfredi, the parish priest of the Latin community, discovered this church southeast of the historic center of Madaba, next to the King’s Highway* A mosaic inscription (later destroyed) indicated the name of the church and 578 as the year of the completion.
* King’s Highway, also called Via Nova Traiana, is the ancient thoroughfare that connects Syria and the Gulf of Aquaba as mentioned in the Old Testament, it is one of the world’s oldest continuously used transportation routes.
He also found the famous medallion with a personification of the Sea in the center of the nave. Its inscription gives the name of the mosaicist: “O Lord God who has made the heavens and the earth, give life to Anastasius, to Thomas and Theodora. [This is the work] of Salaman the mosaicist.” Systematic excavations were conducted at the church by the German Evangelical Institute in 1967.
The mosaic floor of the Church of the Apostles is well preserved and was not disfigured by those that destroyed icons of other religions. It is one of the most beautiful and interesting mosaics in Madaba.
The current structure is designed and implemented by architect Ammar Khammash and sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the American Center of Oriental Research.
They are working on one side of the church so they have a ramp where visitors can look down upon the mosaics, and work being done. The person in charge let us walk down and take many pictures of some of the mosaics that have been or need to be restored, amazing!
They are many different ones and we were able to get pictures of the ones that have been restored and the ones being worked on right now and how the restoration goes. It is slow work requiring patience and expertise. The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023.
Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George, Madaba
The Church of Saint George
The Madaba Map is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George. The map depicts part of the Middle East and is the oldest surviving depiction of the Holly Land, especially Jerusalem. With two million pieces of vividly colored local stone, it depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta.
The mosaic contains the earliest extant representation of Byzantine Jerusalem labeled the “Holy City.” The map provides important details about its 6th-century landmarks, with the central colonnaded street, and the church of the Holy Sepulcher is clearly visible. This map is one key in developing scholarly knowledge about the physical layout of Jerusalem after its destruction and rebuilding in 70 AD. It is said that the map was used by travelers and new watering sites were marked by candles as they appeared and disappeared.
The church itself is beautiful and still holds services to this day.
Some of the mosaic masterpieces found in the Church’s in Madaba depict a profusion of flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, as well as scenes from mythology and everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming. Hundreds of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout the city.
We left Madaba city and on the way out Hasan took us to an area where mosaics are still hand made. There were two stores to choose, one sold mosaics made by known artist, the other sold mosaics made by the locals many with handicaps and the money they make supports the people that work there. We had no intention of purchasing anything until we saw this table and met the man that made it. The table is on it’s way to our home in Pinehurst!
We ate dinner in Madaba before heading to our hotel near the airport. As usual Hasan picked a fabulous place for dinner and we sat and enjoyed the feast. As usual he smoked his shisha in one of those water pipes, he said he liked the apple flavored tobacco.
Hasan drove us to Cairo airport where we stayed in an apartment on the airport access road. It took Hasan a while to find the building it sat alone along the airport service road and was a half completed building..
We looked at each other then stopped and went in to meet the manager. He took us up to see the apartment we would stay in. It was brand new, so new the trim was still taped around the doors for painting. It was clean, the bed seemed OK, so we stayed there for the night. Can’t judge a book by its cove. We enjoyed had tea and coffee and laughed about the the crooked door to the balcony. We got a decent nights sleep. Janice laughed and thought it would have a hard time surviving even a small earthquake HA!
The next morning Hasan picked us up and dropped us off for our flight to head back to Cairo..Hasan made Jordan a wonderful experience it felt a lot like saying goodbye to an old friend and the tour company Jordan Direct Tours did a great job, working with us online to put an itinerary that worked for us instead of having a “canned tour”.