Thursday, January 09, 2014

Touring Day: Madaba and Mount Nebo

One of our favorite things to do over the Christmas/New Years vacation is take day trips together around our beloved Jordan. Due to a flurry of pre-Christmas social activity and work, we celebrated Tayta's Christmas Eve birthday on December 26th this year. We were up early to enjoy the traditional cinnamon rolls, grapefruit, and egg breakfast, and then, encouraged by beautiful weather, we hit the road.

Though we usually head north on such day trips, today we headed south to Madaba and Mount Nebo. Dear Husband and I so enjoyed our visit this summer, we decided to take the kids, who had not visited there for many years. Tayta informed us that she had never been to Mount Nebo. Well, at least that she could remember. Gulp. None of the kids had visited The Church of the Virgin Mary and the adjacent historical park (mosaics), so we started there. It was a quiet day, tourist-wise, so the gatekeeper/ticket taker accompanied us around the site, discussing the finer points of the archaeology. Me, I like to appreciate the beautiful mosaics.

The Tree of Life 
(pomegranates and grapes)

This Roman road is located just outside of the church. The stones are laid  diagonally to prevent wheels from getting caught in the cracks between the stone.

Below is the oldest mosaic found in Jordan. It is from the baths of the fortress of Machaerus which was built by Herod the Great, and dates back to the first century B.C.

The peeling turquoise paint and the rusty frame of this closed shop-front door caught my eye and I asked the kids to pose for a picture. Better than a studio back-drop, I think.

And then I found another door...

Next we visited the church (shrine) of Saint John the Baptist. Somehow, we had missed visiting this interesting site during previous trips to Madaba.

Another door. This one led to the ancient tunnels...

Down into the tunnels...

A memorial to John the Baptist, who was imprisoned and then killed at Herod' winter palace at Machaerus (mentioned above),  his head offered on a plate to Herod's step-daughter, Salome.

I didn't get a picture of the beautiful sanctuary, with perfect acoustics, but I did get a picture of the extensive nativity scene which was set up at the front of the church, in front of the altar.

Meanwhile, the guys discovered the passageway which led to the bell tower.

Surprisingly it was open to the public, so up the steep stairs we went...

Tayta enjoying this view from nearly-the-top

Active Son and Artist Son went all the way to the top, but the climb was a too rigorous and risky for the rest of us. If only my pictures were enhanced with audio, you could hear Dear Husband and me sternly commanding the guys not to climb out the window onto the ledge.

Though they have never had the opportunity to pose with Mickey or Donald, my kids have now posed with John the Baptist.

More doors

Heading back toward the city center, we passed the Madaba Christmas tree. Tayta was charmed by the city of Madaba, proclaiming it the Paris of Jordan. That seemed like a stretch to me, but I think that because Madaba was once a Christian town, there remain enough cultural vestiges which make it yet seem familiar.

The weathered wall of this "modern" but abandoned home reminded me of the subtle colors found on an old fresco:

As the shadows lengthened, we made our way up to Mount Nebo, the traditional resting place of Moses. The location of Moses's remains is unknown, but Mount Nebo is mentioned in the last chapter of Deuteronomy as the place where Moses ascended to view the Promised Land.

On a clear day, one can see Jericho and Jerusalem, but many days are hazy as this one was.

The Brazen Serpent, Mount Nebo

This map at the lookout point shows the distances to notable cities.

The church at Mount Nebo is being restored so we were unable to enter, but a number of shelters had been set up to house some of the mosaics and items of historical interest--a sort of make-shift museum. I liked the picture above: the first archaeological crew to work at Mount Nebo. Note that the priest and the sheikh are holding hands.

Another picture of the crew in the field. 

More mosaics, more color, more designs to enjoy

The color and lines of this aloe plant caught my eye.

From Mount Nebo we headed back to Madaba where we visited the famous Church of St. George and the Madaba Map. Our final and much anticipated destination was a favorite Arab restaurant, Haret Jdoudna, where we planned to eat dinner together, thanks to a thoughtful and generous Christmas gift from far-away-and-much-missed Oldest Daughter.

We were as happy as we look in this group selfie. It was a perfect day. Really perfect.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an amazing series of images, locations, memorials, etc. Such a rich cultural environment. And unless the camera is telling a very profound lie, what a delightful family you have!