Breakfast at Mariam Hotel was decent. I was kinda bored of eating, so I spent my time enjoying the view from the breakfast room at the top floor – they actually furnished it with panorama windows, so that was totally awesome. I could get glimpses of Madaba town. Be sure to check that out!
We hired a car from Mariam Hotel to take us on a tour of Mount Nebo, Bethany Beyond Jordan and the Dead Sea; a very Bible-themed day trip. First stop – Mount Nebo. Mount Nebo was the site from which God reportedly showed Moses the Promised Land. They have a small display of some artefacts found on the site, but mainly, you just go to the point whereby Moses was reportedly shown the Promised Land. If you are trying to spot it, basically, you’ll see this black-ish looking river. Beyond that river is Israel. It doesn’t take a very long time.
Our next stop was Bethany Beyond Jordan, which is the river that separates Jordan and Israel today, for political interest. But more importantly, it was also supposed to be the river that Jesus got baptized by John the Baptist. Getting into it was quite interesting. You have to park the vehicle you got there on at the lot, then wait for the shuttle bus that comes every half hour or so, and is included in your entrance fee. The controls are there, because this is actually the border area between Jordan and Israel. There were so many barbed wire fences as the shuttle bus drove us towards the river.
It seems that climate change has done its thing to the river. A more apt description of the river is perhaps a stream. As we took the short walk from the point where we were dropped off by the shuttle bus to various sites, it was a really small body of water that divided Jordan and Israel. Let me put it this way – you did not have to be particularly athletic to jump over that little river without getting yourself wet.
Before going to THE river, the guide brought us to a site, whereby former churches used to be. It seems that they basically just built different types of churches on top of each other, and they all had access to the holy river.
Finally, the main highlight – the river where Jesus was baptized. It is quite apparent that everyone wanted a piece of the religious mojo. There were quite a number of religious buildings, the most prominent one is actually a Russian orthodox church, which was located about 50 m from the site where Jesus was baptized. The site is definitely one of the strangest things on earth. Both Jordan and Israel erected structures to give one access to the river, due to its importance. At the same time, due to the sensitive political situation in the Middle East caused by the existence of Israel, while we were trying to soak in some of the religiosity of the site, we were also highly aware of soldiers from both Israel and Jordan watching us, with big guns slinging across their bodies. Anyways, that did not stop me from dipping my feet in!
Last stop for the day – the Dead Sea. After enduring some cold over the last few days, the Dead Sea area was surprisingly warm. It was basically not very different from going to some famous beach town. Well, except this is the Dead Sea. Due to the Dead Sea being the Dead Sea, you either had to stay in one of the fancy hotel/spas to gain access to the Dead Sea, or you pay the some US 10 entrance fee at one of the public beach clubs. We ended up doing the latter. I just kinda dipped my feet into the water, and boy, it was definitely salty (no, I didn’t lick my feet) – my feet were crusted with salt not long after that. E and H tried to float, and although they did float, they did look kinda funny. 😛 H also bought some of the Dead Sea mud from the big block of mud they had near the beach, due to rumours of the cleansing properties of Dead Sea mud.
All in all, a good day. We didn’t head back to town, opting to have dinner in Mariam Hotel instead. In the process, we continued to discover its charms. Turns out, there is a rather substantially-sized swimming pool in Mariam Hotel. The dining room was also pretty classy. It has very high ceilings, and a fireplace, along with a TV. It was more like a sitting lounge more than anything. I did something uncharacteristic – I just had an excellent lentil soup for dinner.
Israeli side of Bethany beyond Jordan
People floating in the Dead Sea
Dead Sea is real salty!