Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Jordan: A Timeless Mosaic

Overlooking the Promised Land

From there, it’s a winding drive up to Mount Nebo through parched desert mountains and dried creek beds. Nomads’ tents are perched on hillsides. Far below spreads the lush Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and Jericho. These visual extremes are common in Jordan. It’s a Bedouin’s beauty.

Atop the mountain stands Moses Memorial Church, which is currently closed for renovation, but some of its celebrated mosaics are available for viewing. Jordan is a land of mosaics, but for most, visiting Mount Nebo is more about seeing what Moses saw. The Promised Land stretches for miles beyond the Jordan River below.

“I was taken by the juxtaposition of flowers and lush valleys with the vastness of the desert,” said Phelus. “For a country that size to have such a wide-ranging panorama is amazing. Jordan reaches you in a place that shocks you into stillness and silence. I left feeling much more spiritual than when I arrived.”

“To stand on Mount Nebo like Moses did and gaze out over the Promised Land was moving,” said Ken Wooten of Academic Travel Services in Hendersonville, North Carolina. “Due to one indiscretion, Moses could not enter. Moses lived under Old Testament law, and everything had its consequence.”


A City in Stone

The following day, we visited Jordan’s masterpiece, the ancient city of Petra. Banihani admitted that this UNESCO World Heritage site tends to overshadow the rest of Jordan, but that’s understandable. Petra is comparable to any of the world’s most revered archaeological sites. It is astounding in both size and beauty.

Most see the iconic image of the 2,000-year-old Treasury in Petra and think of that as their destination. The Treasury was a tomb, not a financial fortress, and is one of the most photographed sites on earth. During the day, its facade is a glorious rose color; at night, it turns golden when illuminated by candlelight.

Don’t be in a hurry to get to the Treasury or you’ll miss perhaps the greatest walk of your life. To hike a couple of miles or so through the Siq, a towering canyon that was lost to outside civilization for five centuries, is worth every step.

“In 600 B.C., Petra’s story began,” said Mahmoud as we walked into the Siq. “Petra was the capital of a huge kingdom built by the Nabateans until the second century A.D. In the fourth century, they accepted Christianity as their religion. There was an earthquake in the seventh century that destroyed much of Petra. We believe that 80 percent of Petra lies beneath the rubble.”

Mahmoud’s observations were frequently interrupted by the clatter of hooves coming toward us. Horse-drawn buggies hauling tourists come by regularly, but they only add to the charm of this otherworldly trek.

“In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Crusaders built a fort in Petra,” he said. “After that time, Petra was lost to the Ottoman Empire. In 1812, a Swiss explorer, Jean Louis Burckhardt, announced he had found the lost city of Petra.”

We walked two miles into the site and stopped at the Treasury. Then we walked another couple of miles to gaze at towering archaeological sites built into the cliffs above, including the High Place of Sacrifice, the Urn Tomb and the Monastery.


Cooking and Reflecting

Though a morning and an afternoon in Petra are unforgettable, our hosts were not about to call it a day. That evening, we were treated to a do-it-yourself meal at Petra Kitchen that was as educational as it was delicious.

“All week long, this group has asked me about what we’re eating: the hummus, the baba ganoush, the entrees, everything,” said Banihani. “I always said, ‘Wait until Petra Kitchen, and it will be clear.’”

We divided into groups with our own chefs and chopped our vegetables to make fresh taboulah and baba ganoush. We seasoned a boiling pot of chicken and used the broth to make a wonderful lentil soup. And we sat together to enjoy a full Jordanian meal.

Theresa Ransone, bank travel director with the Golden Advantage program in Virginia, summed up our trip perfectly as we relaxed later by the Dead Sea.

“Jordan is a living museum,” she said. “And its people are among the most hospitable I’ve ever met. I can’t wait to go back and tell my group about this remarkable place.”


Jordan Tourism Board North America