The history of religion in Jordan
As the Jordan River snakes its way through the country, so too can it be found weaving in and out of religious texts dating back centuries. It is this – Jordan’s ancient and mystical past – that makes the country so irresistible to religious pilgrims and staunch atheists alike. Whatever your beliefs, you’ll have to agree that there’s something intensely fascinating about a country so prominent in the histories of today’s most influential monotheistic religions. After all, Jordan is a country that is believed to have witnessed the baptism of Christ, the miracles of Moses, the murder of John the Baptist…
Archaeologists and religious leaders seem to have agreed on the location of a number of noteworthy sites and thus religious tourism to Jordan has continued to grow in popularity over the last few years. A keen interest in history alone warrants time spent exploring biblical caves and journeys out to ancient tombs. As always, we couldn’t resist taking a closer look at Jordan’s most exciting historic offerings, and here’s a list of our favourites to inspire your curiosity.
The Baptism Site of Christ
True, the location of Jesus’ baptism hasn’t been 100 percent agreed upon, but this particular site by the Jordan River, backed by both religious texts and scholarly opinion, gets the majority vote. Still, even if the story of Christ isn’t exactly where your interests lie, the ancient baptism pools and byzantine ruins should be enough to impress you.
It was these exciting findings that lead to the conclusion that this was where John the Baptist was likely to have resided. Referred to in the Bible as Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, the area has undergone extensive excavations over the past few decades and has been sensitively developed to include a visitors’ centre that will add some context to your trip should you not be fully clued up on the historic significance that abounds here.
Sitting hundreds of meters below sea level, the landscapes here are dry, arid and ancient, so it’s easy to imagine prophets and religious recluses living pious lives along the banks of the river, thousands of years before your visit. An overall humbling experience, this small area of land alongside the Jordan River will leave you dreaming of a bygone era whose religious reverberations are still acutely felt in the world today.
Rising to 700 meters above the Jordan Valley, the views from the top of Mount Nebo alone could be enough to convince tourists to make the journey. It is without a doubt, however, that most come not for the views, but to stand in the very place that biblical passages state Moses first laid eyes on the Promised Land. The summit is now adorned with a sculpture representing Moses’ staff and the surrounding area is home to a Franciscan monastery. Previous excavations revealed the ruins of Byzantine structures as well as a number of incredible mosaics which you’ll be able to view on a visit to the Memorial Church of Moses; the newest addition to this sacred spot.
One of the most famous stories from early religious accounts is that of the fall of Sodom and Gomorra. Prophet Lot, a descendant of Abraham, managed to escape the devastation of these two cities with his daughters (although his wife was turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying god’s word) and took refuge in a cave near modern day Safi. The family is said to have lived in this cave for years, a cave which has been identified and is now a popular spot for tourists to explore. Yet another glimpse into Jordan’s mysterious and iconic past.