On another side trip, we visited Jesus's Baptism site, the Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, and Madaba. First stop along the way was the Baptism site. We have all been to the Baptism site across the river, but this was Mark, Betty, and my first time on the Jordanian side.
Amazingly, this site was discovered only within the past 20 years. In 1897, a mosaic map of the holy sites across the Middle East was discovered in Madaba. One of the locations on that map was Jesus's Baptism site, shown to be East of the Jordan River. Many people were interested in finding this location, however the area was not safe to visit for most of the 20th century due to World Wars I and II, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts of 1948, 1967, and 1973. Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994, and in 1996 the area was approved for de-mining and excavation. In addition to discovering Jesus's baptism site, archeologists also discovered ruins of Roman and Byzantine churches, large Roman pools, mosaics, caves, pottery, and 'Elijah's Hill,' which is the place believed to be where the prophet Elijah ascended to Heaven. Here is the map of the site at the entrance as you await the bus to take you down to the river.
One of the ancient baptismal pools.
View from the path heading down to the river.
Going down to the river...
Next stop was the Dead Sea, which was only a few miles down the highway. We stayed the night at a hotel and enjoyed lots of pool time and dips in the sea.
We had been talking to the boys about being able to float in the sea without floaties because there was so much salt it would keep us all afloat. But so much salt they also had to keep their mouths shut and not to touch their eyes. They did it...it may be a long time before they get in this sea again :), but we were proud of them for trying!
What a neat feeling to sit back and float!
Betty and I got mudded up. We came back the next day and did our faces too and baked in the sun while the mud dried.
We spent the majority of our time at the different pools. There was a large pool, a kids pool, an infinity pool, several jacuzzis, and a fun waterslide!
The boys had a blast on the slide and we all had fun riding with them!
Nathan and I went back to the sea for a little float.
And when we came back, the boys wanted to show us a surprise! They continue doing great in the water, and we are thankful to have opportunities for them to swim and have swim lessons in camp this summer.
After all the hard work swimming, a smoothie hit the spot!
Mark, Betty, and I headed down to the sea for sunset. It was a clear night and the colors in the sky were amazing!
After the sun went down, we sat by the sea for a while and watched the lights of Jericho and other coastal towns across the way start turning on. Heading back up to the hotel, the lights and pools looked so pretty at night.
The following day, we swam for a few more hours, then headed to Mt. Nebo. The boys were wiped from swimming, so I hung with them while they napped and Nathan, Mark, and Betty visited the site.
Memorial to Moses on Mt. Nebo
Then Moses climbed Mt. Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land...Then the Lord said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, "I will give it to your descendants." I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it. And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave it. ~Deuteronomy 34:1-6.
The final stop of the day was Madaba. Our family enjoys visiting Madaba so much. The town is always lively, and it is fully of history. The town is most famously known for its mosaics, and this is where you will find the Map of the Holy Land, on the floor of St. George's Greek Orthodox church. We dropped off Mark and Betty at the church and found place to park.
Inside the church.
The Madaba Mosaic map dates back to the 6th century, and has over two million pieces of colored stone showing villages and towns in Palestine all the way to the Nile Delta. This map shows the Baptism site, which lead to the discovery of Bethany Beyond the Jordan a little over 20 years ago, what Jerusalem looked like at this time, and the church of the Holy Sepulchre. This map was very important for understanding the physical layout of Jerusalem after its destruction and rebuilding in 70AD.
Our final stop was the mosaic workshop the park curator ran. He gave us a demonstration of the old vs. new forms to make mosaics. He was very patient and kind, and even let the boys play with stone.
We left town as the final evening prayer of Ramadan came to a close. The town was very busy with people getting ready for the start of Eid al-Fitr the next day. It was a neat time to be in the town.
We are so thankful for the time together and opportunities to explore these ancient places!