Jerash & Madaba Mosaic Map

Arch of Hadrian

Today is our last day of sightseeing in Jordan and we spend it visiting the roman ruins of Jerash and viewing the famous map mosaic at St George’s church.

It seems like the influence of Romans can be seen everywhere and Jerash is Jordan’s largest Roman site.

Normally one can witness chariots race or gladiators in full regalia clash at the Hippodrome. We rushed to the site to see a show but it ended up getting cancelled for some unknown reason. Instead we moved on and visited the other sites.


One site we spent some time at is the south theatre. We marveled at the preservation while a bagpiper and drummer performed.

South Theatre

Temple of Zeus
Temple of Artemis
Example of images destroyed during iconoclast period
Northern Theatre

Later the historical town of Madaba we visit the famous 6th-century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land at St George’s Church. The oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the holy land. Parts are destroyed but what remains is still a marvel to see.

And this is the end of my trip to Jordan and the group tour. At the time of this posting it has been over 6 months since my trip and I am happy to say my tour group still checks in with each other from across the world via a WhatsApp chat. I feel fortunate I was able to spend my time in Jordan with this group.

Mt Nebo

For the majority of my life Mount Nebo was a mini-mountain in Ohio where I once lived.

Once I became more familiar with religion I learned it is a place in Jordan where Moses is said to have a view of the promise land.

On top of the hill is an Olive Tree planted by John Paul II during his visit here as a symbol of peace.

serpentine cross sculpture

In addition to the views there are the remains of a 4th century church that contains an amazing work of mosaic that was able to survive the iconoclastic period during which all art such as this was destroyed.

After our visit to the church on Mount Nebo we stopped in a workshop to see how mosaics are made.

The whole process is fascinating and I would love to ship a table like below back home but it is quite out of my price range, especially for someone currently unemployed. Maybe one day if I have money flowing I’ll go back to Jordan and ship some beautiful mosaics home.

Dead Sea

A visit to Jordan wouldn’t be complete without a chance to float in the dead sea.

During one of our long tour days we arrive at a beach club with pools, a concession, and access to the sea. We are given time to go down to mud up, float, and then to spend some relaxing time at the pools afterwards.

The Dead Sea is 400 meters below sea level and the UV rays don’t affect you as much. Which means no sunburning? The ozone layer is supposedly thicker here and so high that it actually filters out many of the sun’s harmful UV rays. It is not 100% safe but safer for exposure than most locations. Use your best judgement with sunscreen and don’t necessarily rely on your tour guide for advice.

To get the whole experience you pay to have access to the “healing” mud. You can cover your entire body with mud, let it dry, and then go out to the sea to wash it off.

Pro tip: No shaving before you visit. I rarely shave while I am traveling but for some reason I shaved right before my visit to the Dead Sea. Bad idea. Once in the sea I start stinging a little. I am also really freaked out about getting the water in my eyes because that is supposed to be painful as well.

Lathering up in our mud.
Photo credit unknown.

We put our group stuff in a pile and go lather up and stand around to let our mud dry.

Waiting to dry. I blur the faces to protect the innocent.
Photo credit Travel Companion

This isn’t actually a sea but a super-salty lake which cannot sustain life. The salt density of the water means you’ll go for a float; swimming is almost impossible.

We float around in fun shapes.
Photo credit unknown

I didn’t float long since my face did burn a little bit, can’t tell if it is the salt or the sunscreen I had applied to my face. I exited the lake went up to rinse off and take a dip in the pools at the resort. At some point I realize I don’t have my sunglasses. I gave them to someone to hold for me while we applied mud and I could not find them in the pile of bags we had. Because it is the only pair I had for my travels (prescription) and because I am weary from all my travels, I have a mini-meltdown. I run up and down looking for them, accusing others of losing them. Eventually I found them underneath some of my travel companions things, right where they were supposed to be. This mini freak-out is a reminder to take it easy and not to sweat the small stuff – a skill that would be useful for the next few months of travel I have left.

I finally swim a bit in the pools but then it is time to get ready to leave. I enter into the ladies showers and changing room and the women working in the shower are very bossy and tell me where to walk and how to shower. The whole process is a little annoying especially because the shower was terrible. Oh well, it is all part of the experience.

Despite my little setbacks it was a great experience to do a float in the Dead Sea. If I had to do it over again I probably would have scheduled an overnight at the sea so it wouldn’t have been a rushed experience (In a group tour your time is limited). I’ve heard the Israel side is more lively; Israel is on my travel bucket list so maybe one day I will go back….

Montréal Castle

Our tour guide gave us a choice. We could choose to see the Kerak castle or the Montreal castle. As a group we chose the Montréal castle.

The Montréal or Shobak Castle in Jordan is less impressive in appearance but is famous for its tunnel system out to the road (which we were not able to use).

Montréal is a Crusader castle on a rocky mountain. The ruins, called Shoubak (Arabic: الشوبك‎), are located in modern town of Shoubak in Jordan.

The structure is not massive but it is interesting to visit. They are busy reconstructing it from the ruins.

Cool wind farm off in the distance
Tunnel down to the road

Petra: High place of sacrifice

The morning started with a hike to the monastery. The morning hike had a good amount of shade and it was still cool enough in the morning so I didn’t overheat too much.

As a group we decided we were also going to see the High Place of Sacrifice, one of the highest points in Petra. I am hot and tired but I decide to do it anyway.

At the top of Jebel Madbah there is an altar with drains for the blood of sacrificial animals. Most people get there using the 45 minute trail from the theatre but we arrived through the back route seeing the Royal Tombs first. This trail is probably best done in the morning but we did it in the afternoon due to the Monastery hike in the morning.

We head first to the Petra temple and explore the area. Some of us desired a rest so we sit around a strange altar area for a while. Someone may have left their hard boiled egg from breakfast to the gods. It is during this time we start losing group members, they can’t find us and they travel ahead to the trail.

Getting some rest. Photo credit unknown.
wandering around the temple

From behind the temple we find the back trail to the High Place of Sacrifice. We start our ascent uphill and see lots of tombs along the way.

The steps up here were very steep. Not so bad going up but very difficult going down. You can see the group congregating at top and slowly going down.
The view below
Almost there. Lady at the top yelling at us to follow her for the way up. We end up scrambling up some rocks.
Finally at the top.
Altar is the upper left
Tea shop at the top
View of below

Once back down below we head back out toward the main entrance. I am beat and taking it very slow even though it is mostly downhill. I think I definitely got my fill of hiking for the day.
Of course we stop for views of the Treasury one last time.

Due to our long day we did see quite a bit of Petra but there is still more to see. Two days gives you a good highlight but if you can spend more then do so. Petra is a good place to visit.