Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Jordan Winter 2012

Because of laptop problems, I am doing our Winter 2012 Jordan trip entries after-the-fact.  Because of that, and due to the fact that many of the sites are already described in some detail on the Fall 2011 Jordan page, this page will usually include only maps and the briefest of descriptions for each of the four days that we were gone.  I tried to get lots of pictures, especially of the students, and each day will begin, as usual, with a highlights video clip.

Day 1 (1/23/12): Mt. Nebo, Madaba, and Machaerus.

On the first day, we crossed the border at the King Hussein Bridge, formerly known as the Allenby Bridge (A).  We met our guides, Yousef and Mohammed, and proceeded straight to Mt. Nebo.  After stops Madaba and Machaerus, we finally arrived at Wadi Musa, where we spent the night.

Mount Nebo is where Moses looked into the Promised Land before his death/translation (see Deuteronomy 34).  The Byzantines had built a memorial church here, which the Franciscans are in the process of rebuilding.  On the west side of the site, one looks towards ancient Canaan, perhaps much as Moses Although one can only rarely get a really clear view of Palestine from here now because of the haze (or, in this season, because of the clouds), it was still moving to be there and talk about Moses and his role.  After summarizing the account of the end of his biblical mission and noting his role both at the Transfiguration in the NT and in the Kirtland Temple during the early Restoration, we sang, "Redeemer of Israel."

Floorplan of the Byzantine church and its mosaics

The new church under construction
My students at the Mt Nebo overlook

The view over the Jordan Valley with the Judean Wildnerness and highlands almost in view
We then drove into the modern city of Madaba, a town of about 60,000 built on the site of the original Moabite city of Medeba (see Numbers 21:30), which later was a Christian Byzantine city.  We had lunch there, the first of a series of middle eastern buffets this week.

Our objective in Madaba was to see the Madaba mosaic map of the Holy Land.  When Christian Arab families began to resettle the site of Madaba back in the 1880s and 90s, they began by rebuilding the ruined Greek Orthodox church there.  In the process of the reconstruction, they discovered a floor mosaic that lays out with startling accuracy not only the site of towns and places mentioned in the Bible, but also provides a clear picture of what Christian Jerusalem looked like in the Byzantine period.

The Greek Orthodox Church of St. George
The Dead Sea on the Madaba Map

Jerusalem on the map (there is a clearer picture on the Fall 2012 page )
Our last stop before we arrived at Wadi Musa for the night was Mukawir, the site of the Hasmonean and Herodian fortress of Machaerus.  Since this is very likely where John the Baptist had been imprisoned and then beheaded, we took the opportunity to discuss that prophets mission and what we could learn from his willingness to stand up for what was right in the face of Herod Antipas, which led us, as last time, to sing "Faith of Our Fathers."

The conical mount on which the fortress of Machaerus, a "mini-Masada" was built
Ascending to the fortress
Cameron and Mark striking "man poses" on the ridge

Our class on top of Machaerus

Some of our girls posing with columns

The sun sets on Machaeus

Day 2 (1/24/2012): Petra with a stop at Shoubak

Petra, the ancient Nabatean city mysteriously located in a sheltered basin accessible only through a narrow slot canyon or "siq," is the most famous site in Jordan.  Most people recognize one of its monuments, the "Treasury," is known from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."  But the Treasury is only one of dozens and dozens of rock-cut tombs and other buildings from the early Roman and then Christian Byzantine period.

Mt. Hor, where Aaron died and was buried
Some of the first rock-cut tombs we saw were so-called "Djinn boxes," free-standing tombs that the later Arabs through were made (or inhabited) by genies.

This cat is for you Catie Legro

Looking down the Siq, the slot canyon that leads to Petra

With friends and colleagues Nancy and Kent Jackson and Marilyn and Joseph Bentley.

When we were here in the Fall, I used most of our free time after the Treasury to hike up to the high place, a sacrificial complex, and then the "Monastery," another rock cut tomb like the Treasury.  This time I stayed down in the basin, exploring many of the monuments and tombs that I did not see last time.

Plan of Petra. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

The Nabatean theater

The Tomb of the Urn
Other of the royal tombs
Looking down at the Cardo, or main street

Layout of the Byzantine-era church in Petra
Atrium of the basilica

The bishop's palace

The great south temple
The Qasr al-Bint, of temple of the Pharoah's daughter

Carrie, Alec, and Krystal in the Qasr al-Bint

David and Jason on camels

Our last stop of the day was a quick photo-op at Shoubak, the site of the Crusader-era castle of Montreal.

We then drove on to Amman, the capital of Jordan, where we spent the next two nights.

Day 3 (1/25/2012): Amman, Jabbok, and Jerash

The current capital of Jordan was once the capital of the biblical kingdom of Ammon, when the city was known as Rabbath-Ammon.  In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, it was a Greek city known as Philadelphia.  Since the Islamic period, it has been known by its current name, Amman.

Before we began visiting archaeological sites, we stopped first at the King Abdullah Mosque, the national mosque of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, where our guides lectured to us about Islam.

Our sisters dressing in conservative Islamic garb

Looking up at the dome of the mosque

Looking forward to the mihrab, that marks the direction of Mecca, and the minbar or pulpet

Electronic clock noting prayer times

We then went up to the Citadel of Amman, where monuments from all of the city's periods stand.

Early walls and remains going all the way back to the Ammonite period
The Ammonite god Milcom or Molech was later identified with the Greek Herakles
Our group posing in front of the remains of the Temple of Herakles (Roman Hercules)

A church was built on the Citadel during the Byzantine period
The Umayyads, the first Islamic dynasty, built a palace complex on the Citadel
The Entry Hall of the Umayyad Palace

Inside the Entry Hall
Plan of the Umayyad mosque

Inside the mosque

Leaving Amman, we drove northwards, stopping at the Zarqa River, known in the Bible as the Jabbok.  We then went on to Jerash, one of the largest cities of Jordan, where we had lunch and visited the ruins of ancient Gerasa.

The Jabbok River was where Jacob encountered an angel on his way back to Canaan after living in Haran, where he got his wives Leah and Rachel.  After wrestling with the angel all night, being blessed by him, and receiving the name "Israel," he apparently saw God himself, since he renamed the spot where he crossed Peniel, or "face of God."  We had a very nice devotional there by the river bank, reading the account from Genesis 32:22-32, and discussing how Jacob's pilgrimage---including starting with Beth-el, the "House of God," proving himself faithful, and then returning the the "promised land" with his family---can apply to us and our own lives.  We sang together "Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah" and "Lead Me into Life Eternal" before I offered a prayer and gave the students some alone time to think, contemplate, and read on their own.

The Jabbok is the second-largest tributary to the Jordan
As I was speaking, a herd of goats passed along the high bank above us

After eating a large lunch at the Green Valley Restaurant in Jerash, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the substantial remains of Gerasa.  Like Philadelphia (Hellenistic Amman), Gerasa was part of the Decapolis, a loose league of 10 Greek cities mentioned in the New Testament.  The current site is the second largest, well-preserved Greco-Roman cities, right after Ephesus.

In the hippodrome, or stadium
Mohammed, one of our guides.

The oval forum

The Cardo
The "Gold Market"

Layout of Gerasa, courtesy of Wikimedia
The tetrapylon over the crossing of the Cardo and the Decumanus

The Theater of Gerasa

Temple of Artemis

And yes, a Byzantine church!
Temple of Zeus

On our way back into Amman, we stopped at the Royal Auto and Motorcycle Museum, which keeps many of the cars and bikes of the late King Hussein.  In many ways, this change-of-pace museum was also provided a history of modern Jordan.

Day 4 (1/26/2012): The Theater in Amman and the Baptismal Site at the Jordan River

After checking out of our hotel on the fourth day, we visited the classical theater in Amman. Attached to the archaeological site is a small cultural museum, consisting mostly of costumes from different periods.  Also next to the theater is an Odeon, or smaller, originally covered concert hall that also served as the meeting place of the city council. We had sung some in the main theater, but in the Odeon we ended up having a particularly powerful "Restoration" moment, singing "Praise to the Lord," "Joseph Smith's First Prayer," "Praise to the Man," and "Come, Come Ye Saints."  Usually I just start the students, but for this set I actually directed them so that we could feel the dynamics and tempos together.  It was a powerful moment.

The guides and students prevailed on me to sing in the theater. Ended up doing "Be Still My Soul"

Girls dancing . . .

Not to be outdone, the guys did a can-can . . .
In the Odeon

Amman traffic
Amman shops

After eating KFC on the bus for lunch, we stopped at the traditional baptismal site of Jesus Christ at the Jordan River, where we had our final devotional of the trip, talking about Jesus' baptism, its symbolism and import, and the meaning of our own baptisms.  We sang the "Baptismal Song" from the children's song book and "Come Follow Me" from the hymn book before Kent Jackson offered our prayer.