By Mark A. Taylor
The notion of visiting the nation of Jordan had never entered my mind. But now that I’ve gone, I’d recommend the trip to anyone.
In eight days last November, almost 20 Christian writers, editors, and reporters had the chance to taste the delights of Jordan in a tour arranged just for us. For many it was a first-time visit. For most, it won’t be the last.
Many readers of Christian Standard might wonder whether to include a visit to Jordan in a Holy Land tour itinerary. Definitely, I’d say, “Go there!” Visit to see biblical sites (surprisingly, hundreds of them), but that’s not all.
From the new resorts being built along the Gulf of Aqaba in the south to the cosmopolitan restaurants and shopping of the capital city Amman in the north, Jordan offers the vacationer comfort to compete with any world-class destination.
But the lure of antiquity adds a unique dimension. The incomparable Petra has been designated one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” Its multistory edifices were carved out of towering pink cliffs by desert dwellers who lived there long before the time of Christ.
The restored ancient city of Jerash is “the best preserved Greco-Roman city in the Eastern Mediterranean,” according to archaeologist Mark Ziese, who leaves Cincinnati Christian University to dig in Jordan every summer.
The Citadel, perched on the highest of Amman’s imposing hills (about 2,900 feet), was a fortress for thousands of years and is replete with restored walls, a palace, a Byzantine basilica, and magnificent views over the teeming city that surrounds it.
But the greatest beauty came with our day in the desert.
Wadi Rum, where Lawrence of Arabia fought the Ottoman Turks in 1917, is an expansive valley of sand punctuated by cliff-like hills called jebels. Today tourists experience it via camel, horse, or four-wheel-drive vehicles. The latter were reserved for us. We jostled past magnificent rust-red outcroppings till we parked to watch the sun set.
Some of us sat in silence, awestruck by the play of light and shadow on the rocks and sandy fields around us. Some clambered across the cliffs, hoping to capture the perfect photograph of the evolving gold-amber-purple kaleidoscope.
But pictures only hint at the vast landscape. And they cannot capture the quiet (“We come to the desert to listen to the silence,” our guide told us). Of all my experiences in this remarkable nation, this is the one most difficult to describe and the one I would most like to repeat.
And with all of this, I haven’t yet told you about the biblical sites in Jordan. These are also not to be missed. I’ll explain why in this space soon.