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ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE FROM AMMAN
09 DAYS | 08 NIGHTS
[ 01 Amman | 01 Bethany | 01 Ma’in | 02 Petra | 01 Aqaba | 02 Dead Sea ]
DAY 01 : Q.A.I. AIRPORT – AMMAN
Arrive at Queen Alia International Airport. Transfer to your hotel in Amman; the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for the overnight.
DAY 02 : AMMAN – JERASH s/s – ANJARA s/s – UMM QAIS s/s – BETHANY
After breakfast drive to one of the most splendid provincial cities anywhere in the Roman Empire, the 2,000 year old city of Jerash. From the southern end walking past Hadrian’s Arch and alongside the impressive 244m long Hippodrome, where chariot races took place in antiquity, one enters the ancient city of Jerash, onto the lovely colonnaded Oval Plaza, connecting the Temple of Zeus, which overlooks it, with the main street, the Cardo, which is beautifully lined by Corinthian columns. Overlooking the Plaza is the extraordinarily well preserved and the most magnificent of all the city’s monuments, the South Theater, which seats more than 3,000 spectators. Walking through the magnificent Colonnaded Street, one can see the Market Place and the Omayyad residential quarter. Further up is a 4th century AD Cathedral, St. Theodore’s Church, the impressively carved Nymphaeum (public fountain), an Omayyad mosque, the arches of the West Baths and the North Theater. One can also see the Temple of Artemis and the western churches.
Proceed to the biblical town of Anjara where it is believed that Jesus Christ along with his mother Mary and disciples spent the night in a cave near the town, during a journey between Jerusalem and Galilee. The exact location of the cave is unknown but a commemorative Roman Catholic shrine for Virgin Mary, was built in the 1950s, known as “The Church of Our Lady of the Mountain” or “Sayyidat al-Jebel”, with a statue for Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, placed within a newly built grotto. Anjara has been declared as one of Jordan’s five Christian pilgrimage sites along with Tell Mar Elias near Ajloun, Bethany on the Jordan River where Jesus Christ was baptized, Mount Nebo and Machaerous where John the Baptist was beheaded.
Drive on to biblical town of Tishbe, known as Listib; the birthplace and hometown of the Prophet Elijah who is named in 1 Kings as “Elijah the Tishbite”. A pilgrimage site grew up during the Byzantine era, around the town of Listib, on a hilltop known as Tell Mar Elias, where the ruins of a seventh century AD cruciform church with wonderfully decorated mosaic floors were unearthed along with burial chambers and water cisterns. Prophet Elijah died in Bethany (the Baptism site) before ascending to heaven on a flaming chariot from Elijah’s Hill in Wadi al-Kharrar (Saphsaphas).
Proceed to the Decapolis city of Umm Qais, which was known by the Romans as Gadara and was famous for the richness of its intellectual life. Not only popular because of the extensive ruins but because of its magnificent panoramic views over the Golan Heights, Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) and the Jordan Valley. The ancient city of Gadara is also believed to be the site where Jesus Christ cast out demons from two men and forced the evil spirits to enter a herd of pigs, which in turn rushed down the steep slope and drowned in the Sea of Galilee (Matthew chapter 8, 28-34). Much of what can be seen today was actually constructed during the 2nd century AD. A visitor can observe the West Theater which was constructed from the black basalt, and once seated an audience of 3,000 people. Beside the West Theater, stand the black basalt Corinthian columns of the 6th century octagonal Byzantine church, and further west is a bath complex. Numerous Greco-Roman tombs and a colonnaded street can also be observed.
Drive along the fertile Jordan Valley, where early settlements were built 10,000 years ago and significant biblical events took place, to Bethany; the baptism site on the Jordan River for the overnight.
DAY 03 : BETHANY s/s – MOUNT NEBO s/s – MADABA s/s – MA’IN
After breakfast visit Bethany, the most important and extraordinary biblical site in Jordan. It marks the place in el-Kharrar Valley (Saphsaphas), East of the Jordan River, where our Lord Jesus Christ came 2,000 years ago, to be baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him” (Matthew 3: 13), and where Prophet Elijah is said to have ascended into heaven in the 9th century BC, on a chariot of fire from Elijah’s Hill which is located at the eastern edge of the valley.
The Baptism Site (al-Maghtas) is known in the Holy Bible as Bethany or Beth-abara (the Place of Crossing) “These things were done in Beth-abara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing” (John 1:28). From the days of John the Baptist, when he started his ministry and where he was baptizing, Bethany was considered a major Christian pilgrim station en route between Jerusalem and Bethlehem to the west and Mount Nebo to the east. Recent excavations have revealed a 5th century AD monastery built on the remains of a church around a cave, on the western side of Elijah’s hill, believed to be where John had lived and where Jesus was known to have visited him. The site is still very much the same as to how it would have looked in the time of Jesus and John, where the Bible describes the reeds and the small rough bushes which are habitats for bees, reminding us of what John the Baptist used to eat in the wilderness while he was preparing the way to the Lord, wild honey and locust. A wealth of sites was uncovered. Recent excavations have revealed caves, where monks and hermits used to live, dug into the upper layers of the eastern side cliffs of the Jordan River, the remains of churches with mosaics and marble floors dating back to the Byzantine era, and some to the late Roman era, along with ancient baptismal pools, where pilgrims descended through the marble steps into the water to be baptized. A vast water system that used to bring water from the valley to the church and a water reservoir were also found.
Proceed to Mount Nebo which dates back to the time of the Prophet Moses, around the 12th century BC and is believed to be the site of the Prophet’s burial place and from where he viewed the Holy Land. On the top of the 1000m hill are the ruins of Moses Memorial Church, built by the early Christians in the 4th century AD. Inside, are the remains of magnificent mosaic floors with stunning designs that feature hunting and herding scenes but unfortunately the church is now momentarily closed for renovation. From a viewing platform in front of the church and looking out towards the Holy Land, a visitor may see a an Italian-designed bronze memorial of a snake on a cross which symbolizes the serpent lifted up by Moses in the desert, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Mount Nebo commands excellent sweeping views over the Dead Sea and the entire Jordan Valley and on a clear day one can also see the rooftops of Jerusalem (46km) and Bethlehem.
Continue to Madaba the “City of Mosaics” which is renowned for its magnificent collection of lavish Byzantine mosaics found in its churches and homes. The most famous and significant of all the city’s treasures is one of the oldest maps of ancient Palestine, the 6th century AD mosaic map which covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, depicting the major biblical sites from Egypt to Palestine. The extraordinary map offers a historical insight into the surrounding region and was depicted in the past for the benefit of the pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. The River Nile, Mount Sinai, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and Lake Tiberias are easily identified on this map, in addition to many cities such as Gaza, Bethlehem and the detailed Holy City of Jerusalem where one can still clearly make out the city walls, gates, the main street (cardo) and the domed Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Not to be missed is the Church of the Apostles, with its beautifully decorated mosaic floors depicting native birds, flowers, animals and a large central medallion, known as the female Personification of the Sea, surrounded by fish and marine creatures.
Drive on to Hammamat Ma’in, which is set dramatically amidst the mountains around a series of hot springs and waterfalls, for the overnight.
DAY 04 : MA’IN ( FREE ) – MACHAERUS s/s – WADI MUJIB – PETRA – CAVE BAR
Morning at leisure to enjoy the hot springs and hyper-thermal waterfalls of Hammamat Ma’in that cascade into natural mineral-rich hot pools, making it a wonderful retreat in the colder months. The therapeutic properties of these waters were already known and exploited in antiquity. During the 7th century AD, pilgrims travelled from all over the world to Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethany and Mount Nebo and ended their trip bathing in the natural hot springs and waterfalls of Hammamat Ma’in.
Drive to the desolate hilltop of Machaerus; the castle of Herod the Great and the place where John the Baptist was imprisoned, when he outspokenly denounced King Herod Antipas’ marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. John the Baptist was later beheaded on the King’s birthday when Herodias’ daughter, Salome, is said to have danced in return for a wish, which was the Baptist’s head on a plate. The site is protected by deep ravines and the ruins themselves are quite modest but the view over much of the Dead Sea and the hills of Palestine is breathtaking.
Continue along part of the 5,000-year-old Kings’ Highway and through the spectacular canyon of Wadi el-Mujib, biblically known as the Arnon, to the legendary city of Petra for a 2 night stay.
Enjoy a drink at the Nabatean Cave Bar in the evening.
DAY 05 : PETRA s/s – THE ROCK CAMP ( DINNER )
After breakfast, explore the legendary city of Petra which was carved entirely out of solid sandstone rock more than 2,000 years ago and has been recently voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The breathtaking ancient city is accessed by foot through the magnificent 1.2 km narrow Siq (gorge), which leads to Petra’s most famous 1st century BC monument, the spectacularly carved Treasury which appears dramatically as you enter the hidden city at the end of the Siq. The numerous stunning ruins of tombs, known as the Street of Facades, lead your way into the remarkable 3,000 seat rock carved Theatre, and the impressive collection of Royal Tombs. The once bustling colonnaded market street, leads to the Great Temple, the beautiful 5th century AD Byzantine Church and to the mighty Qasr el-Bint Faroun. Should you wish to explore Petra further, a flight of about 900 steps cut into the colorful rock, takes you up to the gigantic 1sth century AD monument of the Monastery, with its stunning views over Wadi Araba.
Drive to The Rock Camp in Little Petra area which is set on an ancient site of a Nabatean winery and where 2,000 year old water channels are still visible. The camp offers an insight into the Bedouin’s way of life. Enjoy their hospitality while dining under lamp-lit, hand woven tents. Share in authentic Shraak bread baking, and relax around the campfire under the starlit skies. Tantalize your senses with the taste of fresh cardamom-spiced coffee grinded and roasted in front of you. Get adorned with temporary Henna tattooing; traditionally thought to have magical powers & Kohl eyeliner, still popular amongst the Bedouins as a natural protection against the harsh desert sun. Return to your hotel in the evening.
DAY 06 : PETRA ( FREE ) – WADI RUM ( 4X4 ) ( DINNER ) – AQABA
Morning at leisure.
At noon drive to Wadi Rum best described by Lawrence of Arabia as ‘vast, echoing and God-like’ for its stunning natural beauty, and known by the Arabs as the Valley of the Moon for its moonscape terrain of ancient riverbeds, soaring wind carved rocks and smooth golden dunes, offering the most spectacular desert scenery in the world. Explore its stunning landscape and venture far into the magnificent desert by Bedouin four-wheel drive vehicles while marveling at the massive mountains, beautiful canyons, awe-inspiring rock formations and remarkable desert sunset.
Enjoy dining in the desert before driving to the Red Sea resort of Aqaba for the overnight stay.
DAY 07 : AQABA ( FREE ) – WADI ARABA – LOT’ CAVE s/s – DEAD SEA
Morning relax at the palm-fringed beaches of Aqaba.
At noon, drive via Wadi Araba road along the Dead Sea Rift Valley to the Dead Sea; the lowest spot on earth, visiting en route Lot’s Cave in the barren hills overlooking the ancient city of Zoar (modern Safi) where Lot and his two daughters sought refuge after the destruction of Sodom while his wife turned into a pillar of salt because she had defied God’s orders and looked back to watch the destruction of Sodom.
According to the Bible “The five Bronze-Age Cities of the Plain”, mentioned in the Bible as Sodom, Gomorrah, Zoar, Admah and Zeboim and known as the world’s most sinful cities, were destroyed by the Lord with a rain of brimstone and fire to put an end to the perversions and wickedness of its people. Genesis 19 describes how God sent his two angels to Sodom, to lead Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family outside the city before its destruction. The cave where Lot and his two daughters dwelt in has been recently discovered along with ruins of a small Byzantine church with mosaic floors and burial chambers. At the base of the hill is Lot’s Museum, “The Lowest Museum on Earth” where about 400 archaeological finds from the area and across the Jordan Valley, representing history from 8000BC, are exhibited.
DAY 08 : DEAD SEA ( FREE )
Day at leisure in the Dead Sea, where one can experience floating ethereally on its saline waters without exerting any effort. The extraordinarily unique healing and beautifying powers along with the relaxing feeling that this salt lake imparts, makes it an exceptional natural spa with exclusive benefits, ranging from the oxygen-rich atmospheric haze which filters out harmful ultra-violet sunrays to the soothing and therapeutic properties of its mineral-rich salty waters and mud.
DAY 09 : DEAD SEA – Q.A.I. AIRPORT
Transfer to Queen Alia International Airport for departure…