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A trip to Bethany: the Baptism Site

The Peace Wadi is no more than a fifteen minute drive from one of Jordan’s major tourist attractions, the Baptism Site.

Two days ago, Mohammad offered to take three of us to visit the site which is located a few hundred metres from the River Jordan.WhatsApp Image 2018-03-13 at 16.44.58

As we approached the entrance, the views were dramatic; with rolling sand-coloured mountains providing the backdrop to a largely barren landscape with freshly constructed churches, deep pink Bougainvillea (called Majnune in Arabic, meaning “crazy”) and of course, the occasional date palm.

At the entrance, we were given a special pass which allowed us to drive into the main site and explore in our own time (rather than hopping onto the main shuttle bus).

After dipping our feet in the cool water of the Jordanian River, which serves as the international border between Jordan and Palestine, we were welcomed by Abu Elias, a friend of Mohammad’s and Father of the Russian Pilgrimage House within the Baptism Site.

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We then wound our way under a shaded path to the baptismal pool uncovered by excavations around 25 years ago, and which historians and archaeologists believe to be the site where John the Baptist baptised Jesus Christ.

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I was surprised to see relatively few tourists visiting the site, given its religious significance. I also had not realised just how narrow the river was; no more than 20 metres wide at each of the points we saw it. At the furthest point we walked to, the river directly faced Palestine, so that armed guards on either side of the river stood observing visitors from around the world, as they stepped into the water considered by many to be holy.

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My guide book wrote that “with historical resonance, natural austerity and religious power, this is an extraordinary place”. My trip to the site definitely lived up to the bill.
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