Adventist Review/Adventist World News Editor Mark A. Kellner is in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, viewing biblical sites and learning more about a fascinating nation in the heart of the Middle East. As time and technology allow, he’ll send brief stories and photos to document the trip.
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ETRA, Jordan -- Monday of our trip began with a dash north from Amman to Umm Qais (Arabic: أم قيس) is a town in Jordan located on the site of the ruined Hellenistic-Roman city of Gadara (Hebrew: גדרה, gad´a-ra
) (Greek: Γάδαρα, also transliterated Gádara), the “country of the Gadarenes” (Matthew 8:28) where Jesus cast the demons out of a man and into a herd of swine. This was one of the “ten cities,” or Decapolis, which included Amman (then known as Philadelphia, but not the Philadelphia of Revelation fame). Along the way, we stopped at the Jabbok, a tributary of the Jordan River, where Jacob was said to have wrestled God and had his name changed to Israel (Genesis 32:23, and following).
I bought a red and white kaffiyeh, or head scarf – “It is the finest Syrian cotton,” the salesman assured me -- and the agal rope that holds it in place, at Umm Qais; the sun was strong, and I’d left my Adventist Review cap back at the hotel. You can see the result at the top of this page.
From the top of a hill in Umm Qais, you could see the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee, and Israel beyond. Jordan now gets some much needed water from the Galilee, following a peace accord with Israel.
After Umm Qais, we went to Jerash, another city where the Romans and Greeks held great sway. Jerash has one “commercial” tourist attraction, a “circus,” in the Roman sense, where Gladiator battles are (harmlessly) reenacted, along with chariot races. The hippodrome (amphitheatre) is said to be one of the finest still standing.
For those contemplating a trip to Jordan, a word about food is in order: there are plenty of vegetarian options at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the variety of restaurants is astonishing. In Amman, one sees American franchises such as KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s, Hardees and even Popeye’s Chicken, but there are plenty of local restaurants – these may or may not have many vegetarian choices, but are striking sights for the overseas visitor. Our party has largely dined at our two (so far) hotels, the Grand Hyatt in Amman and the Crowne Plaza in Petra. Monday night, however, we dined at the “Wild Jordan” café in Amman, which is devoted to organic and natural cooking.
A stone’s throw from “Wild Jordan” is “The Good Book Shop,” specializing in English-language titles and boasting a very nice Christian book section. It was there that I found a copy of Seventh-day Adventist author Joe Wheeler’s “Christmas in My Heart” book.
Tuesday morning, following another briefing on religious life in Jordan, we went first to Madaba, a city on the “plains of Moab,” where there’s an ancient Orthodox Church which holds one of the oldest mosaics showing a map of biblical sites. The close-up photo shows the “map” of Jerusalem from the mosaic – although it is definitely not to scale, or accuracy! Christians are the majority of the population in Madaba, and they get along well with their Muslim neighbors, according to Omar, our guide, who is a Madaba native.
Lunch in Madaba was at the Haret Jdouna restaurant, where the freshness and variety of the food is beyond compare. There were plenty of vegetarian options and the bread was out of this world. You just haven’t had hummus or baba ganouj until you’ve had them at Haret Jdouna – believe me!
After the meal, it was off to Mt. Nebo, where the sun was beginning to set over the Dead Sea, visible from the top of the mountain where a Franciscan (Roman Catholic) holy site exists. Standing on a platform to gaze over into the Promised Land was quite something.
Omar helpfully pointed out that the Bible doesn’t report Moses having seen the whole country (Deuteronomy 34:1, and following) but rather that God had shown it to him. He suggested this was a vision, since one cannot see the whole of the land from Nebo.
Then we had a two-and-one-half hour drive to Petra, a city familiar (by reputation perhaps) to many readers. We arrived long after nightfall – by 6 p.m. it was pitch dark outside – and couldn’t see much of anything other than the super-nice Crowne Plaza Hotel and our rooms. Thanks to the Internet and my trusty computer, I’m able to bid you a good night from here – it’s past 11:30 as I write, and early tomorrow, it’s off to the rock-red ancient city, and by foot!