According to the bible, Jesus was baptised on the Jordan river, but it doesn't say which side. Today one bank of the river Jordan is in Jordan, the other side is in Israel. Both sides claim that Jesus was baptised on *their* side of the river. My Jordanian guide was adamant, of course, that it was Jordan who had not the strongest claim, but the *only* claim.
His argument was very convincing. John the Bapist lived and died on the Jordan side of the river, ending his days to the execution order of Herod's daughter down the road in Kerak. It has been shown historically that the river Jordan has changed course over the centuries, and would have several meters inside the Jordanian border at the time of Jesus. They have found marble steps dating from the period, which were probably used for baptisms.
Most important of all, however, the Pope sided with Jordan, and you can't argue with the Pope.
The whole place is so close to the border, it is inside a Jordanian military zone. When you are driving along to the site on the tour bus, you can see Jericho on the other side of the Jordan in the Occupied Territories. When you finally reach Bethany, you can walk down to the river Jordan and stand a few feet from Israel, looking over at the Israeli's own baptism tourist site, with the Israeli flag flying proudly over it.
It costs 7JD for the tour, the bus, and the entrance fee. Don't take photographs of the soldiers, or anything military, and mind the flies. There were hundreds of them. Not biting ones, though.
This place has no public transport, so you'll need to get a taxi.
The Burnt Palace was a 6th century era mansion which was leveled by a massive earthquake in 749 CE as well as gutted by fire.
While I was there, they were performing maintenance in the building so it was closed for viewing. Apparently this serves as a museum showcasing more mosaics.
The façade is just breathtaking and leaves you in awe of what Islamic architecture is all about. The minaret juts out into the sky while the rest of the structure gleams bright white.
The Map of the Holy Land
The mosaic of the map of the Holy Land was 17.5 metres long and 10 m wide, and it had got more than 2 milions pieces. Now the mosaic is 15.7 metres long and 5.6 metres wide and it lose more important parts.
On the map there are more than 150 town with their name and their werw show very detailly more important was the town. All the name of the town and place are in Greek and they were wrote with different colours and symbols to remember the characters of the place: the most important Holy Place are in red.
St George's Church
There was an original church at this site built in the 6th century AD. This current building built around 1896 which serves as a Greek Orthodox Church built around 1896. During this process a Mosaic Map was discovered in the floor. The map shows the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean sea. It shows Egypt, Lebanon, The Dead Sea, The Nile and Jordan River. It also shows major cities like Jerusalem. The map is simply amazing and no photo will ever do it any justice. It will be a challenge even for a skillful professional photographer.
There is a little gift shop inside the church and across the street from it. You can clime up to the bell tower where you can see a view of Madaba. A ticket will coast 1.5 JD. If you find the place crowded, don’t get in come back later. Of course during mass you won’t be able to visit and see the Map.
The Map of the Holy Land: Jerusalem
In the middle of the mosaic there is the town of Jerusalem as heart of Christianity.
You can recognize all the monuments and building (a total of 36). You can see the walls, the gateway doors, the Cardo Maximus which start in the middle of a square where there is a colomn and the St Sepulchre's Church. You can also see the Basilica of Jerusalem which was built in 543, so the mosaic was made later.