Jordan: A paragon of tourism sites

jordan PetraMadaba

MADABA, the city of mosaics, situated along the 5,000-year-old King’s  Highway, is one of the most memorable places in the Holy Land. The city has  a long history dating back to the book of Exodus when it was named as one  of Moab’s Cities of the Plain. The town, later conquered by the Romans, was  remodeled in the typical provincial style with colonnaded streets, temples,  large cisterns and a town wall.

Historical sites
Madaba’s chief attraction can be found in the contemporary Greek Orthodox  church of St. George. It is a wonderfully vivid sixth century Byzantine map  showing Jerusalem and other holy sites. Painstakingly handcrafted using two  million pieces of colored stone, the map originally measures a full 25metres by five metres. While this masterpiece is unrivalled, there are literally dozens of other  mosaics dating from the sth through the zth century found throughout  Madaba’s churches and buildings.

•Madaba Archaeological Museum
•Madaba Archaeological Park
•Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration

Umm Ar-Rasas (Ancient Mayfa’al
Umm Ar-Rasas is a town unique in its combination of different civilisations.  This is exemplified in its Roman, Byzantine and Islamic heritage. Due to its  unification of Roman style architecture and its embellishment by early local  Christians, well over a hundred years after the beginning of Muslim rule, the  town has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Historical sites
A must see in the ruins of Ancient Mayfa’a, is the large, perfectly preserved mosaic  floor in the Church of St. Stephen. The mosaic floor, laid down in 718 AD portrays 15 major Holy Land cities both east and west of the River Jordan and is the perfect  destination for the biblical history fan!

Mukawir, Mount Nebo

Historical sites
The Moses Memorial Church is a destination on every history or religious tourist’s list of must-see spots. The church, built on top of six tombs from different periods, boasts several mosaic remnants, the earliest of which is a panel with a braided cross.

jordan imagesOne of the things in abundance in Jordan, besides hospitality and great food,  is the amount of significant biblical sites. Mukawir is a great example of that  as it was the location of events that greatly affected religious history. Situated  about an hour away from Madaba on the picturesque King’s Highway,  Mukawir once served as the hilltop stronghold of Herod the Great and later  was the location where Herod Antipas ordered the beheading of John the  Baptist after Salome’s fateful dance of the seven veils.

Mount Nebo
Mount Nebo, the most revered holy site in J ordan, was a place of pilgrimage  for early Christians for a myriad of reasons. This is the site where Moses  viewed the Holy Land and where he was believed to have been buried. Walk  in his footsteps and witness religious history at this moving landmark.
The Serpentine Cross, standing just outside the sanctuary, is symbolic of the  brass serpent taken by Moses into the desert and the cross upon which Jesus  was crucified.

Archaeological Centres
To preserve the archaeological heritage of the area the Franciscan  Archeological Institute protects and maintains all sites at Mount Nebo and  the nearby city of Madaba.

The Dead Sea
The therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea, combined with the Jordan Valley’s fertile land and warm climate, have attracted people to live, hunt, and farm in the area as early as the Stone Age. One of the world’s most amazing places, the Valley, is a dramatic, beautiful landscape, which at the Dead Sea, is over 410m (1,312 feet.) below sea level making it the lowest point on the face of the earth. While over 200 archaecological sites have been discovered, many more are still waiting to be fonnd. The area is full of biblically important sites as it is where God first spoke to man, where He gave His 10 Commandments to Moses, where Job suffered and was rewarded for his faith, and where Jacob wrestled with the angel of God. This is also the site of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah, the site of the story of Lot, and whre Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.
While this area has a lot of significance for Christians, there are also several key  locations equal in importance for Muslim visitors as it hosts the tombs of several of  the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) venerable companions and military leaders. 

The ancient city of Petra is one of Jordan’s national treasures and  by far its best known tourist attraction. Located about thee hours south of Amman. Petra is the legacy of the Babataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled in southern Jordan more than 2,000 years ago. Admired then for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels. Petra is now a UNESCO World Heritages Site and one of th enew Seven Wonders of the World. Inhabited by the Nabateans, Edomites and Romans, Petra brought together the knowledge and skill of these civilizations to create this world wonder. Caravans laden with incense, silks, spices and other exotic goods would rest at Petra. But their main wealth came from the fact that Petra was an important hub for the lucrative trade routes that linked China in the east with Rome in the west.
Trade caravans laden would break at Petra, which offered a plentiful supply of water and protection from marauders. In return for their hospitality, the  Nabataeans imposed a tax on all goods that passed through the city and grew  wealthy from the proceeds. Petra later flourished under Roman rule, and many  Roman-style amendments were made to the city, including the enlargement of  the theatre, paving of the colonnaded street, and a triumphal arch was built over  the entrance to the Siq. When the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, visited the site in  131 AD, he named it after himself, Hadrian Petra.
Although abandoned after a series of devastating earthquakes and its loss of  status, Petra was rediscovered by Swiss traveler, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt,  disguised as an Arab on August z znd 1812. 

Historical sites

Besides As-Salt’s past as a successful and booming merchant town, the area is  also significant in terms of religion. Among the shrines the town hosts is the  shrine of Job, one of the earliest patriarchal figures in the Bible who overcame  his suffering through his faith. The town also hosts the shrine of the prophet Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, as well as the tombs of Jacob’s two sons: Jad and Asher.  Another must-see in the area is the Abu Jaber mansion, which is reputed to be  the finest example of a 19th century merchant house in the region.

•As-Salt Archaeological Museum
•As-Salt Folklore Museum
•As-Salt Historical Museum (Abu faber House)

Colonnaded Street
Still paved with the original stones – the ruts worn by chariots still visible – the 800 metres  Cardo was the architectural spine and focal point of Jerash. An underground sewage  system ran the full length of the Cardo with regular holes at the sides of the street to  drain rainwater into the sewers.

Further up the Cardo Maximus, is the monumental and richly carved gateway of a  second century Roman Temple of Dionysus. In the fouth century, the temple was rebuilt as  a Byzantine church and is now referred to as the ‘Cathedral’. At the top of the  stairs, against an outer East wall of the Cathedral is the Shrine of St. Mary, with  a painted inscription to Mary and the archangels Michael and Gabriel.

The JerashArchaeological Museum is not to be missed as it houses a fascinating  collection of artifacts including gold jewelry, coins, glass and – perhaps the  most unusual- pottery theater tickets!

Umm Al-Jimal
Umm Al-Iimal is located at the edge of the eastern basalt desert plain, along a secondary  road close to the former junction of several ancient trade routes linking central Jordan  with Syria and Iraq. The paucity of timber in the region led to an almost exclusive use  of the hard basalt stones as building materials: door and window frames, sills, lintels,  and sometimes even the doors themselves! The use of these stones also introduced a  unique roofing system: corbel courses which consisted of long basalt slabs that lay  across the rooms.

Historical sites
Among the most interesting structures to visit are the tall barracks with their  little chapel, several large churches, the outlines of a Roman fort, and the remains  of several town gates.

Pella, Umm Qays
Pella (Tabaqat Fahl)
In the foothills of the Jordan Valley, at exactly sea-level, Pella contains antiquities  dating back to both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

Historical sites
Together with excavated ruins from the Greco-Roman period, Pella offers  visitors the opportunity to see the remains of a Chalcolithic settlement  from the ath millennium BC, as well as evidence of Bronze and Iron Age  walled cities, Byzantine churches, early Islamic residential quarters, and a  small medieval mosque. 

Karak, Showbak

A lonely reminder of former Crusader glory, Showbak Castle is located less than an  hour’s drive north of Petra. Once called “Le Krak de Montreal,” or “Castle of Montreal,”  it is located on the side of a mountain and has a grand sweep of fruit orchards below.

Historical sites
Showbak castle’s exterior is impressive with a foreboding gate and an  encircling triple wall. Despite the precautions of its builder, the fortress fell to  Saladin only 75 years after its construction. Built during Crusader times, over  800 years ago, Showbak castle appears as a natural extension of a dramatic hill.

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