In the footsteps of Moses

The late Pope John Paul visits Mount Nebo

Another busy day and another dip into the biblical history of this part of the Holy Land.

Somewhere, to the left of this view and hidden in the mist, is Jerusalem.

Our first stop took us in the footsteps of Moses to a high point to the south of Amman where the man who led the Jews out of exile in Egypt, first saw the Promised Land – somewhere he was himself forbidden to enter.

A Franciscan order maintains a smart and newish reconstruction, on 4th century foundations, of the Moses Memorial Church which commands sweeping views of the Dead Sea and Israel and the Palestinian Territories beyond.

This is a site visited in recent history by Pope John Paul and obviously continually enjoyed by visitors from all nations.

The church houses some of the best mosaics – and best presented – mosaics in Jordan which date from around 530 AD.

Down the road a local handicraft shop includes a chance to see young people actually constructing mosaics and there are plenty to buy too.

We called in to the city of Madaba – known as the city of mosaics – and the most famous of these is the mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land which can be found on the floor of St George’s Church.

This represents (a surviving part) of the oldest map of Palestine in existence and was crafted in 560 AD.

After a roadside buffet lunch we arrived at Shabaka Castle. Perched on a rocky hilltop, this imposing fort was built by the Crusader King Baldwin 1 of Jerusalem in AD 1115 to guard the road between Syria and Egypt. It fell to Saladin’s troops in AD 1189 and was subsequently built over.

Much of the fort succumbed to earthquake but its well worth the spiral climb up the hill for the view alone. There are electric golf buggies for those who would rather pay a modest sum to be driven to the top. I walked!

What has become obvious in this holiday is how much driving there is to be done between sites but so far what we have seen has made the hours in the back seat of a car worthwhile.

We have arrived in Petra for what surely will be the hilight of this whole trip. Our hotel is just across the road from the ticket office and our visit tomorrow.