After Mt. Nebo, we went straight to a place called the Arts River Mosaic Center. This place is so special, it teaches and employs handicapped Jordanians to recreate famous mosaics using native Jordanian stone. EVERYTHING is done by hand, they get giant blocks of stone, cut them down to a manageable size then the artists use snips to cut them down even more to the size and shape they need for whatever they are working on at that time.
If you have ever taken an art class you have an idea what mosaics are, but the workmanship behind these pieces is insane. One man makes mosaic pendants, set in gold, silver or wood… some are surrounded by diamonds! The stones he used in these pendants are so small it’s hard to imagine how he works with them. But he does and the finished products are magnificent… and on my list of things to buy when I can justify spending $1000 on a pendant the size of a silver dollar (that list is longer than you would expect or I would admit).
Madaba was our next stop, specifically a Greek Orthodox church called the Church of St. George. Inside the church is the Madaba mosaic map which was created in the late 6th century, the map contains the oldest depiction of Palestine, but also shows Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, and many other biblical sites between Palestine and Egypt. It was composed of nearly 2 million pieces when first completed! It is labeled in Greek and also has beautiful animals, boats, fish, and other parts of life in the 6th century. When originally laid it was roughly 21 meters long and 7 meters wide… it’s now 16 meters by 5 meters. It is amazingly detailed and quite beautiful, but as I am not Greek Orthodox the church wasn’t as important as it probably would have been if I was.
Our next trip was by bus to the baptismal site of Jesus Christ. This place has many names, Bethany-Beyond-The-Jordan, Yardenit, Al-Maghtas… but they are all referring to the same place. This was amazing, you look across the river and you see Israel! However, to get to the water you have to walk down a long path that has barbed wire on either side to keep you from wandering into mine fields! Most of the mines were cleared out after a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel in 1994. That sounds intense, but it’s quite peaceful and quiet.
The first place you get to is the excavated site where John the Baptist is said to have lived and baptized people, the site where he baptized Jesus of Nazareth. Sadly, there is not one drop of water there these days, but it’s still an awe inspiring place to see.
Around the excavation site there are mosaics (in case you haven’t noticed, mosaics are a big thing in Jordan!) depicting a pope, a king, and a queen. There was also a hilarious cat who sat and licked itself in front of the group while we learned about the site.
Next, we continued on the path the the Greek Orthodox church of St. John the Baptist and the place where people can currently be baptized (well, on the other side of the river in Israel). We were able to put our hands and feet in the water and that feels really special.
Floating in the Dead Sea
I was so excited to float in the Dead Sea, but I realized when I got to the hotel our first night that I had forgotten my bathing suit! So I got to rub mud on my hands and feet and legs, but didn’t get in and float. Honestly, that water was COLD so I wasn’t ridiculously disappointed, but I still would like to have had the chance! Q did it! He said it was a crazy feeling being forced up to float.
That’s how we ended our second night in Jordan! It was an incredible experience to see places that were so old and so important to Christianity.
I have no idea what I am doing,