Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mount Nebo, Jordan: Simply Biblical

After breakfast we checked out from our hotel in Amman and left for Mount Nebo. It was just an hour’s drive.

Road leading to Mt Nebo

Entrance Gate

This is the place where, according to legend, Moses died at the age of 120, after God showed him the Promised Land. For long it has been disputed whether or not this was truly the place where Moses had died (historical evidence is somewhat vague on most biblical figures) but in the Byzantine era it was believed this was the spot, and no less than five churches had been erected at this spot (one of them has been fully restored).

This sculpture, the Monolith of the 2000 Jubilee created by Vincenzo Bianchi, was erected by the Catholic Church in celebration of the Pope's visit to Mount Nebo, Jordan. The Latin inscriptions at the base reads, "Unus Deus Pater Omnium Super Omnes," which is taken from Ephesians 4:6 in the Bible. It means "One God and Father of all, who is above all." 

In 2000 Pope John Paul II has officially declared this place as sacred, so now Mt Nebo can officially call itself the spot where Moses looked over the Promised Land.

A monument marking Mount Nebo as a Christian Holy Place 

In the fourth century, early Christians turned the old building on the highest part of the Siyagha Mountain into a church to commemorate Prophet Moses' resting place and made pilgrimages to it from Jerusalem. 

The first church was later expanded into the present basilica where a collection of Byzantine mosaics is exhibited as well. 

Detail of  Byzantine floor mosaics 

The site became custody of the Franciscan order in 1932 who excavated the church and put Mount Nebo on the religious tourist maps. 

For the past several years midnight Christmas mass in both English and Arabic has been held at the site.

Mt. Nebo: A guide to the local geography 

But the best part of Mount Nebo is its incredible viewpoint of Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. From the top of Mount Nebo you have an expansive view of the surrounding area—from Jericho and Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley in the north. Jerusalem isn’t very far from here—only 40 km—and on a clear day the Mount of Olives (in Western Jerusalem) is clearly visible.From Mount Nebo it’s also possible to see the very northern tip of the Dead Sea. The brown, rolling hills of the surrounding valleys are an incredible sight to behold. Especially when you think of how old the place is and its historical (and biblical) significance. There’s not much to see at Mount Nebo, but the view alone makes it worth a stop. It’s a great place for an overview of the biblical history of Jordan.

To stand on Mt.Nebo where Moses once stood, and see all these historically important places…it was a nice and pleasing feeling. And thankfully, it was a bright and sunny day when we visited Mount Nebo so we were able to catch a glimpse of Jerusalem and Jericho over in the West Bank.

Standing on Mount Nebo you get a much better picture of the Middle Eastern region and it’s a nice way to see the incredible landscape Jordan has to offer.

                            Memorial Church of Moses

A small Byzantine church was built there in the late 4th century by early Christians. Now it has been expanded into a vast complex. At the time of our visit, construction work was being carried out. The church premise was closed for visitors. 

However, we had the opportunity to move around the complex, visit the museum and see the famous mosaic.

There’s a small museum and gift shop on site which sells typical holy relics and souvenirs, as well as some informative signposts and books about the religious history of Jordan. Moses is believed to have been buried on Mount Nebo and the summit is home to an ancient church which was built in commemoration of his burial. But Moses’ final resting place is actually still unknown.

Standing in the complex is the Serpentine Cross.It symbolizes the serpent taken by Moses into the desert and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. During the exodus, God instructed Moses to erect a bronze serpent on a pole to stop a plague he had sent to kill the rebellious Israelites. All who looked upon the serpent were spared death. The curative serpent wrapped around a pole would later become the symbol of the pharmaceutical industry.

After spending an hour and half,atop Mount Nebo, we continued our journey forward. The entire area was full with pine trees which took me to our very own hill station Shillong, which is also full of pine trees.
In about 30 minutes we were at our next destinationMadaba.

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