1. Madaba

Driving the King’s Highway a half an hour south of Amman, one finds Madaba, a city that is nowadays home to around 60,000 people. This city, which belonged to the Moabites, the Nabateans, the Romans, the Byzantine, the Rashidun and the Umayyad throughout history, is now home to the biggest Christian community in all Jordan, proportionally speaking. The Greek Orthodox church of St. George in Madaba, Jordan, is not only home to some of the most beautiful icons in the region. It also houses the Madaba Map, an intricate floor mosaic dated in the 6th century, the oldest cartographic depiction of the Holy Land preserved to this day.

2. Tel Mar Elias, Elijah’s birthplace

Tel Mar Elias, the birthplace of Prophet Elijah, is located in Northern Jordan, in the biblical Gilead. Near the ruins of the historical Listib (referenced as Tishbe in 1 Kings 17:1), two Byzantine churches were built around the 6th century, and one can still see some of the surviving mosaics in place. Here, pilgrims from the three Abrahamic religions tie red ribbons to an oak tree, paying homage to the prophet.

3. Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea

One of the most interesting features of the Madaba Map is an image showing two fish facing each other. One of them appears to be swimming back from the Dead Sea, while the other swims towards it, through the Jordan River. But it is well known that fish cannot survive in the Dead Sea: it’s not called the “Dead Sea” out of sheer arbitrariness, after all. Most historians and archaeologists interpret this to symbolize a meeting point for Christians. Now, people of all faiths stay for a few days of relaxation in the many spas and resorts that have populated its shores.

4. Wadi Rum

Before the days of the Rashidun Caliphate, the Wadi Rum desert belonged first to the Nabatean kingdom, then to the Roman empire and, finally, to the Byzantines. It was during this last period when, apparently, it got its current name: the inhabitants of the desert —mainly Bedouin tribes who either worshiped Roman gods or had become Christians— would refer to the Christian monastic and ascetic communities established in the region as “Rum,” that is, “Romans,” a word that would apply to Eastern Romans (that is, Byzantines) and Greek alike.

5. The Red Sea

Whereas tradition claims Moses crossed into Jordan through the Red Sea in the south, and made his way to the north up to to Mount Nebo, what neither Moses nor his brother Aaron ever dreamed of doing was going scuba diving in the Red Sea, now one of the main reasons why tourists go in flocks to the southern city of Aqaba. Magnificent coral reefs await those who, rather than crossing the sea, plunge into its depths.

6. The Jordan Trail

Although officially launched in April 2017, this trail runs through ancient biblical, almost legendary routes, as well as through the route Roman conquerors would use to go all the way from the fertile north of Jordan to the south, starting in Garada (Um Qais) and through the impressive Roman city of Jerash, to the rich harbor city of Aqaba, right by the Red Sea. Extending for 400 miles, the Jordan Trail goes through 52 villages, four different kinds of landscapes (from red sand cold deserts to fertile green valleys with thermal waters), and several ancient pilgrimage and trade routes.

7. Petra.

Contrary to what many might assume, Petra is indeed a biblical location. However, the ancient Nabatean city is not mentioned in the Bible by that name; it is rather called by its Hebrew name, Sela, in Isaiah 16:1 and 2 Kings 14:7. Both names, Petra and Sela, mean “rock,” obviously referring to the fact that most of this astounding city is carved into sandstone cliffs. One of this cliffs, Jabal Harun, is said to be Aaron’s tomb. According to biblical tradition, Petra was in the land of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, Isaac’s son. More than 150 papyri were once found in Petra’s famous Byzantine Church, built as early as in the 2nd century. Consumed by a fire in the 7th century, its remains are still impressive.

8. Baptism Site

Known as Al-Maghtas (meaning “immersion” and, by extension, “baptism” in Arabic), this place has been considered since Byzantine times as the original location of the baptism of Jesus, the area in which John the Baptist lived and ministered, and also the site of the Ascension of the Prophet Elijan to Heaven. Situated on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, nine kilometres north of the Dead Sea, this archaeological site consists of two areas: Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill) and the area of the churches of St. John the Baptist near the river. In both sites, several Roman and Byzantine remains can be found, including churches, chapels, and the caves hermits used to live in.

9. Jabal Al-Qal’a, “The Citadel.”

A historical site in the center of the country’s capital, The Citadel stands tall atop one of the seven hills that originally made up the city. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world: there is evidence of people living there since the Neolithic period. The hill later became the capital of the biblical kingdom of Ammon, and was later occupied by Babylonians, Ptolemies, Seleucids, Romans, Byzantines, and the Ummayads. Today, the remains of the uncompleted Roman temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, and a Ummayad Palace can still be visited.

10. Machaerus

On the eastern side of the Dead Sea, and about 16 miles southeast of the mouth of the Jordan River, one finds the hilltop where the fortified palace of Mukawir (“Maxairous,” in Greek; “Machaerus,” in Latin) once stood. Only a few marble columns and stone walls remain, but from the hilltop one can perfectly well see the many small caves that hermits, anchorites, and monks carved into the sandstone to live a life of prayer in the vicinity of the place in which, according to Flavius Josephus, John the Baptist was beheaded.