Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 27 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Simeon Sylites

Journey to Jordan: the deacon in the desert

The Deacon's Bench

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 04/17/15

Yesterday, we found ourselves in a vast sandy wasteland called Wadi Rum, also known as “The Valley of the Moon.”

Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

Wadi Rum has been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times, with many cultures–including the Nabateans–leaving their mark in the form of rock paintings, graffiti, and temples. In the West, Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection with British officer T. E. Lawrence, who passed through several times during the Arab Revolt of 1917–18. In the 1980s one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum was named “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” after Lawrence’s book penned in the aftermath of the war, though the ‘Seven Pillars’ referred to in the book have no connection with Rum. Wadi Rum is home to the Zalabia Bedouin who, working with climbers and trekkers, have made a success of developing eco-adventure tourism, now their main source of income. The area is now one of Jordan’s important tourist destinations, and attracts an increasing number of foreign tourists, particularly trekkers and climbers, but also for camel and horse safari or simply day-trippers from Aqaba or Petra. Popular activities in the desert environment include camping under the stars, riding Arab horses, hiking and rock-climbing among the massive rock formations.

The hardy bloggers and writers in my little group aren’t quite that adventurous. We settled on a jeep ride.

00000076

A few intrepid souls also opted for a camel ride.

00000120
00000197
00000195

The rest of us stayed with the jeeps—actually small pickup trucks with comfortable seats. The cruise around this particular neighborhood was nothing short of spectacular. I’ve always dreamed of visiting the Grand Canyon. Now I don’t have to. This looked like the American southwest on steroids.

00000091
00000112

I should mention here that one of the more endearing residents we met during our visit was a baby camel. A couple people ooh-ed and ah-ed and tried to pet it. The mother grunted, squawked and threw nasty looks at anyone who came near.

00000179

After our excursion, which I guess lasted about 90 minutes, we headed to the base camp, Captain’s Desert Camp.

00000053

This is something altogether different: a kind of desert hotel for tourist campers, with individual tents set up for sleeping and a massive dining hall, also a tent, for meals. This is where we had lunch—another amazing meal of traditional Jordanian fare, including fresh pita, grilled chicken and lamb, and assorted salads.

00000066
00000209

The desert is an overwhelming place; you can understand why people from the dawn of time have fled here to pray. But it is also a place that inspires both deep humility and profound wonder. There is beauty and majesty here to rival any cathedral.

Jordan is blessed with many places like this—its sheer scope can leave you breathless.

IMG_1253

We got a sense of that today, when we visited Herod’s hilltop castle, where John the Baptist was executed.

IMG_1276

The remnants of the castle are considered a Christian place of pilgrimage. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to get to.

IMG_1281

Once you reach the top, you are given a stunning view of the surrounding countryside, including the Dead Sea. It’s easy to understand what attracted Herod to this spot. But the site is also a place for remembrance: the scene of one of the most famous martyrdom’s in history.

IMG_1283
IMG_1286
IMG_1291

To see and experience all this is humbling. And it serves as a reminder of all those who gave so much because of their faith. We are a church built on the graves of martyrs. And it’s sobering to realize, I think, that this martyrdom goes on, even today, not far from where we stood.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
morning
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
2
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
3
Joachim and Anne
Philip Kosloski
Did Jesus know his grandparents?
4
ORGAN
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
5
SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
6
BABCIA Z WNUKAMI
Cerith Gardiner
5 Ways grandparents impact our lives for the better
7
WOMAN,FACE,MASK
Cecilia Pigg
Simplify your life and honor your body with these 5 natural perso...
See More