"And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho."
This is a place of huge religious significance, to both Christianity and Judaism. The Bible describes this as the place where Moses first saw the Promised Land. It is also believed that God buried Moses here on this very mountain. There's still some controversy as to whether this really is the place described in the Bible, but recent excavations of a 4th Byzantine church marking this place as exactly that suggests it almost certainly is.
The church has been rebuilt on top of the remains of the unearthed one, and inside the new walls you will find similar mosaics on the floor to those of nearby Madaba.
The Pope also visited here in 2000 to mark the importance of this site to Christians.
In addition to the historical significance, the views from the top of the mountain are magnificent. On a good day you really can see all the way to the Holy Land. With luck, places like Jericho, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea are all visible from here.
To get here you can either book a taxi, which costs 25 JD if you book it together with a trip to Bethany and the Dead Sea, which is very much advised. If you want to travel more cheaply, there is a regular bus running from Madaba for a quarter of a dinar.
The Dead Sea
The amazing attributes of the Dead Sea you must all be aware of, but just in case you've never heard of the place, just listen to this:
1. It's a hypersaline sea, the saltiest in the world, at about 30% salinity. It's 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. This means that you can float in it. It also means that any wounds you have will sting like hell on contact, but I am told that this goes away pretty quickly. The salinity also gives the water a uniquely oily feel.
2. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on land on the planet, at 418m below sea level. The location is so unique that planes flying over the dead sea are warned that they are crashing into the ground by their automated systems. The low level means that the temperatures are at least 4 degrees higher here than in other parts of Jordan above sea level. The low level also makes the oxygen levels higher and the UV levels lower (meaning less sunburn despite the higher temperatures).
3. The human history of the Dead Sea is amazing. Jericho, the oldest constantly inhabited city in the world, sits on its southern shore. It is believed that the cities of Sodom and Gomorra also once sat on its shores. Some of the luminaries mentioned in the same breath as the Dead Sea include Jesus, John the Baptist, King Herod and even Cleopatra.
4. Geographically it is also fascinating, being part of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon to the North, all the way to Mozambique in Africa.
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.
Ten minutes by car northwest of Madaba is the spectacular site of Mount Nebo. It is located on a hill at the edge of a cliff, just before the descent into the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, with breathtaking views over Palestine. On a clear day, one could see Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nablus and Jericho. An ancient ruined basilica stands near the spot where the Prophet Moses saw the Promised Land (a cross designed by an Italian artist marks the actual spot), and his tomb is said to be in the area too. The basilica dates from the 4th century, although much of what has survived is from the 6th century, including its astonishing mosaics. There is also a small museum with other beautiful Byzantine-period mosaics found nearby. Unfortunately for me, the basilica itself was closed when I visited in December 2010 while a new a roof was being built to better protect the mosaics. It also happened to be a rainy day, so not much past the Dead Sea was visible. Therefore, I must return to Mount Nebo at some point...
For photos of the mosaics at the museum, check out the travelogue: "Mosaics of Mt Nebo".
The Dead Sea
Some 40 minutes by car from Madaba and 1200 metres lower is the amazing natural wonder known as the Dead Sea. It is a salty water lake that fills the bottom of the Jordan Rift Valley and separates Jordan from Palestine and Israel. It is well worth making a day trip to the Dead Sea for the scenic drive and to experience floating like you've never felt before!
For more details, check out this Dead Sea page.
Mount Nebo of Course (~_~)
Mount Nebo is only 11 km from Madaba
It is the highest point in the area, with amazing views down to the Jordainian valley, dead sea and on a clear day Jerusalam.
There are many ruins up there housed in a Fransiscan Chapel, also a huge Staff of Moses.
- Historical Travel
Mosaic Making Factory at Nebo Pearl Shop
Madaba is known as the city of Mosaics and the area has many mosaics of different periods and due to this, Madaba has a mosaic school that churns out artisans and if you don't have the time to visit a mosaic making factory, the Nebo Pearl Mosaics and Shop has an entire area devoted to mosaic making and you will see madaba artisans making various kinds of mosaics into table tops, chairs, pictures, floorings, tiles and more. after the free mosaic factory mini tour, you can proceed to their main shop either to buy or not and taste jordanian tea and coffee for free.
opens: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm everyday
please see my videos too.
Address: Mount Nebo Road, Madaba Governorate, Madaba
Directions: Mount Nebo Road, Madaba Governorate, Madaba, Jordan
- Road Trip
- Arts and Culture
Roman Catholic Mass at Mount Nebo
I visited Mount Nebo on a holyland pilgrimage as I am a Roman Catholic, and one of the highlights of our madaba and mount nebo visit is by having mass inside one of Mount Nebo's chapels adorned with mosaics. They only allow masses inside the private chapels for Roman Catholic Pilgrims with their accompanying pilgrimage Priests as this area is under the Franciscsan Order. Other Christian Denominations can celebrate masses but only outside the chapels.
Being in Mount Nebo is quite an experience
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Drive to Mukawir/Mucharaeus
Where Herod the 'Great' has his palace up high above the Dead Sea and where Salome danced for the head of John the Baptist.
32 km from Madaba - about half an hour by car of interesting scenery.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
- Road Trip