Thursday, May 29, 2014

JORDAN: Following the Footsteps of Jesus

There are two kinds of people on this earth- Believers and non-believers. Religion fascinates both. Only the reason behind this fascination differs.  
Jordan is for both- believers and non-believers. For those who want to explore the Biblical sites of the Holy Land  where religions co-exist and for those who want to slather mud all over them and experience floating on the Dead Sea. Which in itself is an ‘out of this world’ experience.

The three-day visit of Pope Francis to Middle East has been much talked about. I was one of the lucky ones to attend the papal mass in Amman, capital of Jordan, and to listen to him talking about peace in the region.
Pope Francis
While the event has already made history, for the record it’s not for the first time that head of the Catholic Church has visited this Arabic country where Christianity finds its roots. There was Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who have visited Jordan in the past.

And here is all that happened before I attended the papal mass. My first brush with the biblical heritage of the country was at Mount Nebo. After a nice-and light- Arabic lunch at the Holiday Inn Hotel Dead Sea, we headed to the site. And there was the Promised Land.  Mount Nebo is believed to be the site where Moses overlooked the Holy Land but did not enter it. The view from the top is splendid. On a clear day one can see Jerusalem but it seems God was angry with me that day. All I could see was the hazy horizon.
Next in line was the quaint town of Madaba. We visited the Greek Orthodox Church which houses  the intriguing Madaba mosaic map, made in the second half of the sixth century. It is the oldest picture map of the Holy Land that features historical sites, rivers, mountains, villages, Nile Delta, Jordan river et al.   

Following the papal footsteps on the second day we visited the Baptism site, Bethany beyond the Jordan. The bible describes this place where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. After a 20-minute walk crossing the Church ruins we reached the holy river.  As I dipped my feet in the holy river Jordan, on the other bank of the river just a few metres away  a priest was baptising a boy. Yes in Israel. His family and friends were clicking him with their iPads. Just as I was. We were in different countries watching the same boy getting baptised. They say God is in small details. Serendipity is also a word. Jesus was indeed baptised in Bethany, I didn’t need a proof anymore.
A boy getting baptised on the other bank of the Jordan river

Returning from a sumptuous dinner at a local restaurant Haret Jdoudna in Madaba to our hotel on the Dead Sea, the road was pitch dark but you could see the lights of the Holy Land. I have never experienced such a divine drive.  Our tour guide Salah pointed out at a light post far away and said “That’s Jerusalem”. For me it was just a bright spot of that beautiful mesmerizing view. Jordan is for both believers and non-believers.      

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