7 Pilgrimage Destinations in Jordan

Jordan Pilgrim Destinations                

Moses

Pilgrimage destinations in Jordan, according to biblical tradition, Moses walked across Jordan, from the Red Sea in the south to Mount Nebo in the north, where he first saw the Holy Land.

Mount Nebo is now home to the modern Memorial Church of Moses, built right next to the remains of an ancient Byzantine church that has been a pilgrimage site since the 4th century.

The structure is first referenced in 394 in an account of a pilgrimage undertaken by the Christian woman Egeria.

Pilgrimage destinations in Jordan
Pilgrimage destinations in Jordan

Moses, like Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, is a constant presence in Jordan.

Wadi Mousa, “the Valley of Moses,” is the closest town to the ancient, imposing Nabatean city of Petra (to name one).

Local traditions explain that, as Moses walked through this valley, he struck water from the rock at the place now called Ain Mousa, “the well of Moses.”

It is from this very same spring that the Nabateans drew water (through a clay aqueduct that is still very much there) to Petra, the biblical “Sela” (Cf. 2 Kings 14, 7; or 2 Chronicles 25, 12).

Wadi Mousa

Wadi Mousa is also claimed to be the burial place of Moses’ brother, Aaron: local guides tell the pilgrim that his grave may be discovered nearby, high atop neighbouring Mount Hor.

Pilgrims can now ride (or drive) over the breathtaking Wadi Rum desert at sunset, discovering ancient petroglyphs and caves where hermits would commit themselves to a life of austerity and devotion, following in the footsteps of Elijah and the Baptist.

Abraham’s promise

Contemplating the stars while sharing tea and a hot meal in the middle of a cool night in the desert, enjoying the well-known hospitality of the Bedouins, reminds the visitor of Abraham’s promise:

“I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.”

All biblical references come to life in Jordan.

The numerous varied roads a pilgrim can take in Jordan are all rich in religious significance: these are the same landscapes that Moses, Aaron, Elijah, the Baptist, and Jesus traversed.

We wanted to share with you seven unique pilgrimage destinations in Jordan.

Seven Unique Pilgrimage Destinations in Jordan

Madaba

Madaba is one of the Pilgrimage destinations in Jordan and it’s located half an hour south of Amman on the King’s Highway.

This city, which has been ruled by the Moabites, Nabateans, Romans, Byzantines, Rashidun, and Umayyads throughout history, is currently home to Jordan’s largest Christian community.

The Greek Orthodox church of St. George houses some of the most exquisite icons in the region, as well as the famed Madaba Map, a complex floor mosaic dating from the 6th century that is the oldest cartographic portrayal of the Holy Land still surviving to this day.

The Madaba Archaeological Park, Madaba, Jordan
The Madaba Archaeological Park, Madaba, Jordan

Tel Mar Elias: Elijah’s birthplace

The biblical Gilead, in Northern Jordan, is the birthplace of Prophet Elijah, Tel Mar Elias.

Two Byzantine churches were built about the 6th century near the ruins of the historical Listib (mentioned as “Tishbe” in 1 Kings 17:1).

Some of the remaining mosaics may still be seen in place. Pilgrims from all Abrahamic religions (primarily Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) came here to pay honour to the prophet by tying red ribbons to an oak tree.

Older church of Tell Mar Elias
Older church of Tell Mar Elias © Photo: Haupt & Binder

Wadi Rum

The Wadi Rum desert belonged to the Nabatean kingdom before the Rashidun Caliphate, then to the Roman empire, and ultimately to the Byzantines. According to historians, it was during this last period that the desert’s inhabitants — primarily Bedouin tribes who either worshipped Roman gods or had already become Christians — referred to the Christian monastic and ascetic communities established in the region as “Rum,” a term that applied to both Eastern Romans and Greeks. The desert is becoming a renowned pilgrimage site as well as a popular adventure location.

Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum

The Jordan Trail

Although it was officially opened in April 2017, this trail follows ancient biblical, almost legendary routes, as well as the route Roman conquerors would take to travel from Jordan’s fertile north to south, beginning in Garada (Um Qais) and continuing through the impressive Roman city of Jerash to the rich harbour city of Aqaba, right on the Red Sea.

The Jordan Trail, which stretches approximately 400 miles, passes through 52 settlements, four distinct environments (from red sand frigid deserts to fertile green valleys with hot pools), and various ancient pilgrimage and commerce routes.

The Jordan Trail
The Jordan Trail

Petra

Few people are aware that Petra is a biblical location. This is because the ancient Nabatean city is referred to in the Bible by its Hebrew name, Sela (Cf. Isaiah 16:1, and 2 Kings 14:7).

Both names, Petra and Sela, signify “rock,” referring to the fact that the majority of this incredible city is carved into sandstone cliffs. Jabal Harun, one of these cliffs, is claimed to be Aaron’s tomb.

According to Scripture, Petra was in the country of the Edomites, descendants of Esau, Isaac’s son.

More than 150 papyri were discovered in Petra’s famous Byzantine church, which was established as early as the second century. It was destroyed by fire in the 7th century, but the ruins are still spectacular.

Machaerus

The fortified palace of Mukawir (“Maxairous” in Greek; “Machaerus” in Latin) is on a hilltop on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, some 16 miles southeast of the Jordan River’s mouth.

This palace once belonged to King Herod and is famous for being the location of John the Baptist’s beheading, according to Flavius Josephus.

Only a few marble columns and stone walls remain from the original palace, but from the hilltop, one can see the many little caves dug into the sandstone by hermits, anchorites, and monks to live a life of devotion.

Machaerus Jordan
Machaerus Jordan

The Baptism Site

This area, known as Al-Maghtas (meaning “immersion” and, by extension, “baptism” in Arabic), has been regarded as the original location of Jesus’ baptism since Byzantine times.

It is also where John the Baptist resided and ministered, as well as the location of the Prophet Elijah’s ascension to Heaven. This archaeological site is located on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, nine kilometres north of the Dead Sea.

Jesus' baptism site, River Jordan.
Jesus’ baptism site, River Jordan

It is divided into two sections: Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill) and the area of the churches of St. John the Baptist beside the river.

Several Roman and Byzantine relics, including churches, chapels, and hermit caves, can be found at both locations.

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