Mount Nebo: A View of the Promised Land?

We have now blissfully entered Winter Break and are breaking the promise we made to ourselves during the winter of 2016: Always travel outside your country of residence during the holidays. That year in Ghana, our Christmas flight got cancelled twice and my sister spent her last few days in country swept up in the sands of Harmattan. We also spent a few magical nights at Zaina Lodge reveling in the majesty of one of my favorite animals: Elephants.

This time, visiting family members isn’t what’s keeping us in Jordan – Covid is. Itching to travel, we even started looking into a trip to South Africa with some friends before getting scared off by the idea of long layovers stuck in indoor airport terminals. Instead, we’ll be making mini-trips throughout Jordan (mostly day-trips, a possible overnighter) to try and capture some of the travel vibe we always strive for during long breaks.

That said, this post actually goes back to just days before the winter break began. Chandler and I had scheduled a dermatologist appointment during one afternoon (and, surprise, if you don’t follow me on Instagram – I have ringworm, but that’s another story). As we were driving home, we commented on how incredible the weather was: Warm and sunny and, as it turns out, so tempting for a quick trip.

We re-routed our car and found ourselves driving to Mount Nebo, only 38 km (24 miles) away. Home to the Moses Memorial Church, this viewpoint is famously regarded as Moses’ view of the Promised Land. Biblical legend has it that from this spot, Moses was able to see Hebron, Herodium, Bethlehem, Qumran, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus, and Lake Tiberias. As someone who has lived in Amman for seventeen months now, I can say that’s quite a feat. Most views in the region are obscured by sand and haze and we were lucky if we could see Jericho from the viewpoint.

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Which isn’t to say the view, while faint, wasn’t magnificent. If I was wandering around in a desert and came across this spot, I’d probably call it the Promised Land too (woe to the rightful owners of the land).

We didn’t have long outside, because our sunny day turned into sun showers and so we quickly made our way inside the Moses Memorial Church.

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I have to admit that the view of the outside did not prepare me for what was inside the church (we had done little research before our spontaneous trip, but the site is stocked with information).

The original basilica was built around the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses’ death. The excavations and restorations took place under the guidance of Franciscan monks. Now on display in the new church are mosaics thought to be from around AD 530.

The space was quiet, as we were the only ones inside. Always a fan of mosaic work, it was incredible to see so many from such a small space. The main piece is a hunting and herding scene filled with animals native to the Middle East, as well as Africa.

The rain didn’t last long and we spent the rest of our time wandering around the grounds, looking at the different olive trees. Including one planted by Pope John Paul II in 2000 (not pictured).

I can’t say for certain, but this quick trip is probably what helped me maintain my hold on sanity for the few days we had left of school.

And if that wasn’t a big enough bonus, it gave us the push we needed to make the decision to visit Palestine. We’ll wait until we’re vaccinated, but then we plan on spending at least a week exploring the West Bank and Jerusalem. Making sure all of our money goes to Palestinian-owned businesses.

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