Today was a day of activity and adventure!
Traveling south from Amman, first we stopped at Machaerus which currently is called Mukawer. We hiked about 15 minutes to reach an old fortress on top of a hill.
Now there are only some remains of the fortress including two columns that were rebuilt. The fortified palace overlooks the Dead Sea region and the distant hills of Palestine and Israel.
This is the biblical site where Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist. Following her dance for a banquet crowd, Herod agreed to grant his daughter any wish. Prompted by her mother Herodias, who was infuriated by John’s condemnation of her marriage, the daughter Salome demanded the head of John the Baptist on a platter. The unwilling Herod was forced by his oath to have John beheaded. Salome took the platter with John’s head and gave it to her mother.
Here is one of the Bible verses that describe the incident:
Mark 6:17-29 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him. 21 A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” 23 And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.
Wadi Al Mujib
Down the hill we go and off to Wadi Al Mujib. Wadi means valley. We traveled further south along the Kings Way (road) and the Dead Sea road to reach the Mujib River at the point where it empties into the Dead Sea. Wadi Al Mujib is a stream that has cut a canyon into the hillside. It is the starting point for our “hike” along the river through the bottom of the canyon. We will be following the Siq Trail. At 1,345 feet below sea level Mujib is the lowest elevation nature reserve in the world.
Wadi Mujib, the biblical Arnon stream, has always been an important boundary-line. According to the Pentateuch, it once separated the Moabites from the Amorites (Numbers 21:13-26; Deuteronomy 3:8; Judges 11:18).
To prepare for the hike, I put on a swimsuit and bought special water shoes. Brenda decided to wear her sandals instead of getting water shoes. Then we donned life jackets. Brenda and I weren’t really sure what to expect or if we were adequately prepared. Our guide Marwan accompanied us on the trek. He told me that he only goes along with the clients that he likes.
We climbed down a ladder into a shallow section of the river and walked upstream against the current. Our destination was a 60-foot-high waterfall about an hour’s trek ahead. Even in the shallow area, the current was running quickly.
As we progressed, we needed to swim through some areas of deep water. I was glad that my phone is water resistant.
At this point Brenda had difficulty crossing an area of rushing water. She lost one of her shoes and had to turn back.
Marwan and I continued deeper into the canyon.
There were spots where we climbed ropes and ladders to scale tall rocks.
Finally we reached the 60-foot-high waterfall! It’s beautiful. So much rushing water.
Marwan was exhausted. That is what happens when you smoke cigarettes.
After a rest we retraced our path, at times using the rocks as waterslides and letting the current carry us downstream.
Back near our origin we found Brenda. Miraculously one of the guides had found her shoe and she was reunited with it.
We didn’t bother to change out of our swimsuits because our next stop was the Dead Sea. We are staying at the Holiday Inn resort there.
They upgraded us to a suite with a sea view. Like many foreign hotels, dinner and breakfast are included with the room. After checking in we walked down to the hotel’s private beach on the Dead Sea.
First we got into the water to float. The salt content of the Dead Sea is almost ten times as much as in the oceans. It is impossible not to float. It is best to float on your back. The buoyancy makes it difficult to turn over in the water. Any amount of the very salty water will sting your eyes violently. Don’t swallow it either.
We got out and applied Dead Sea mud all over our bodies. This mud is claimed to improve psoriasis, reduce skin impurities, relieve arthritis, and soothe back pain. I can say that it makes the skin feel soft afterward.
Brenda decided to roll in the sand like a breaded piece of fish. Surprisingly, several people joined her. Brenda is a leader!
Once the mud dried, we went back into the water to wash it off.
Later the sunset was beautiful.