Holy Jordan – my first visit to this amazing country

I visited Jordan for the first time in October 2015.

This post is in no way a full write up on my visit, but it’s a photo heavy summary of what I experienced.

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Christine Moore of the Jordan Tourism Board invited me on a Catholic media tour. I was joined by Kathleen M. Carroll, Managing Editor at Franciscan Media, author María Ruiz Scaperlanda, Jennifer Rebecca Tomshack, Editorial Director at TrueQuest Communications, Ed Langlois, of the Catholic Sentinel, and Jeffrey Bruno, photographer representing Aleteia.

Our flight was covered by Royal Jordanian Airlines. This was my first time on a 787 Dreamliner, and it’s one of the many things I was excited about on this trip. The airplane was so quiet and comfortable that I was able to sleep almost the entire flight – in coach!

Telling family and friends I was traveling to Jordan came with the response that one might expect… “But, it’s so dangerous!” Safety wasn’t at all a concern for me leading up to the trip. However, as we were about to land, I pulled up the flight map and then I did start to question what I was doing.

It's fine. It's safe.

It’s fine. It’s safe.

To be honest, being surrounded by Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabi seemed quite exciting!

While we are on the subject of safety, though, I felt safer in Jordan than I do sometimes in Rome, Italy. All our hotels x-rayed the luggage, searched cars and buses, and required guests to walk through metal detectors. While walking around the streets of Amman, Madaba, and Aqaba, I could definitely tell I was in the minority as the very white Catholic American, but no one gave me a second look and I never felt threatened or uncomfortable. As Katie Carroll wrote, there were four shootings and two bomb threats while we were in Jordan. We didn’t notice, though, as those happened in Cincinnati.

Day one: Amman

We landed in Amman and zipped through customs. As people were waiting for luggage, we were surrounded by some of life’s most important necessities, a SIM card shop and a Starbucks. If ever you visit Jordan, pick up a SIM card at the airport. For $20 I had 5 GB of data, more than enough for my week there.

We headed to our hotel in Amman, the Marriott. It was very, very nice.

The lobby of the Marriott in Amman, Jordan.

The lobby of the Marriott in Amman, Jordan.

After a few minutes to freshen up, we headed to dinner at Sufra.

Dinner at Sufra in Amman, Jordan.

Dinner at Sufra in Amman, Jordan.

Dining under a mosque, complete with call to prayer.

Dining under a mosque, complete with call to prayer.

Sufra doesn't serve alcohol, but they have the hookah!

Sufra doesn’t serve alcohol, but they have the hookah!

A little lesson in making fresh pita…

When we returned to the hotel, we caught the end of a wedding of a Jordanian and a Scot. It made for some interesting music.

Day two: Amman, Umm Qais

The next day we visited the Pontifical Mission for Palestine to speak with some Iraqi refugees.

Iraqi refugees that a selfie with the silly American boy.

Iraqi refugees that a selfie with the silly American boy.

Then we headed north, way north, to the city of Umm Qais. Umm Qais was one place I was most excited about. Not because of the history or the Biblical connection (miracle of the swine), but because from here, we were right by the borders of Syria and Israel. I was able stand in Jordan and look into Syria, Golan Heights, and at the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

Standing in Jordan, looking into Syria, with Israel in the background.

Standing in Jordan, looking into Syria, with Israel in the background.

It’s also a really cool ancient city.

The ruins of Umm Qais.

The ruins of Umm Qais.

Day three: Amman, Anjara, Jerash

This morning we had Mass with Father Nabil Haddad of the Melkite Rite. It was one of the most beautiful liturgies I’ve attended.

After Mass we traveled to Anjara to see Our Lady of the Mount. A recent miracle from 2010 where a statue of Mary began to cry tears of blood.

Mary of the Mountain

Mary of the Mountain

A crying Mary.

A crying Mary.

We made an all too quick stop in Jerash, one of the best preserved Roman cities.

Jeffrey Bruno working in Jerash.

Jeffrey Bruno working in Jerash.

After a long day of work, I stopped in to the local Starbucks to see if they could get my name right. I have no idea if they did.

Starbucks in Amman! I think that says "Mountain."

Starbucks in Amman! I think that says “Mountain.”

Day four: Bethany on the Jordan

This morning we left Amman for Bethany on the Jordan. Just a few months earlier I was on the Israel side of the Jordan River. I didn’t realize at the time that the actual spot of the Baptism of Jesus was on the Jordan side. Today I got to see that spot!

The actual spot where Jesus was Baptized.

The actual spot where Jesus was Baptized.

The Catholic church in Bethany. Still under construction.

The Catholic church in Bethany. Still under construction.

We stayed in a lovely Russian guesthouse with private access to the Jordan River.

The Russian Guesthouse where we stayed.

The Russian Guesthouse where we stayed.

My room looked out over the Jordan River and into Israel. At night I could see the lights coming from Jerusalem.

The lights on the hill are coming from Jerusalem. Not a bad view from my window.

The lights on the hill are coming from Jerusalem. Not a bad view from my window.

Day five: Madaba, Mount Nebo

This morning we set out for Madaba to view the ancient mosaic map of Palestine.

A mosaic map of Palestine.

A mosaic map of Palestine.

I missed the story, but there is another miraculous Mary here. One day Mary had two arms, the next she had three – and the new third arm is blue. I can’t recall why it was miraculous and not vandalism, but I’ll be sure to ask when I go back.

Another miracle Mary. This one miraculously has three arms.

Another miracle Mary. This one miraculously has three arms.

We had a little free time before lunch, so a few of us went exploring. We came across the local Catholic Church, named, The Shrine of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. He’s the Patron Saint of Jordan.

The Shrine of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.

The Shrine of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.

We climbed the bell tower for a lovely view of the surrounding area.

The view from the bell tower.

The view from the bell tower.

After an excellent lunch, we drove over to Mount Nebo. This is the spot where God revealed the Promised Land to Moses. It’s also where Moses died and he is buried nearby.

Me looking towards the Promised Land.

Me looking towards the Promised Land.

nebo map

After Mount Nebo we headed south to the town of Petra.

Day six: Petra and Wadi-Rum

Today was a most amazing day. I woke up in Petra at another beautiful Marriott hotel.

The view from my room.

The view from my room.

We drove to the ancient city of Petra and started our hike through the Siq.

Walking through the Siq in Petra.

Walking through the Siq in Petra.

walking 2

This is a place I’ve wanted to visit since seeing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when it came out. To say I was giddy this morning would be an understatement.

Exiting the Siq in front of the Treasury.

Exiting the Siq in front of the Treasury.

It was everything I had hoped!

It was a bit more touristy than I expected. I joined in the ‘fun’ and posed with a camel.

Me and a camel.

Me and a camel.

Did you know camels bite? And spit? I didn’t. I do now. Ugh.

camel 2

We had a little time to explore on our own, so a few of us took the hike up to the monastery.

The climb to the monastery.

The climb to the monastery.

Me and a kid in Petra.

Me and a kid in Petra.

A donkey in Petra.

A donkey in Petra.

After the hike up, there is a great view of the valley below.

The rewarding view from the monastery in Petra.

The rewarding view from the monastery in Petra.

Dirty shoes.

Dirty shoes.

After Petra we drove to Wadi Rum. We parked our bus and piled into some Land Cruisers for a two hour drive into the desert.

Loading up for our two hour drive to our desert camp.

Loading up for our two hour drive to our desert camp.

An adventure awaits.

An adventure awaits.

Me contemplating life, or posing for a picture.

Me contemplating life, or posing for a picture.

A few of us braved the desert sand and climbed a ridiculously tall sand dune to get on a rock and watch the sunset.

The sand dune climbers.

The sand dune climbers.

I was quite happy to be up here.

I was quite happy to be up here.

After sunset we continued on to our camp.

Tents at the luxury camp in Wadi Rum.

Tents at the luxury camp in Wadi Rum.

The bed in my 'tent.'

The bed in my ‘tent.’

I had to take full advantage of being in the absolute middle of nowhere, so some of us went out for a stroll away from the camp to see stars.

stars

Jeffrey wanted to try out light painting. I got to be the model, along with a cool old truck.

Light painting, by Jeffrey Bruno.

Light painting, by Jeffrey Bruno.

Days seven and eight: The Dead Sea

Our last two nights were spent at the Marriott Dead Sea Resort & Spa. We stayed at so many amazing hotels on this trip, but this was my favorite. It was a great way to end such a busy trip.

The view from my room.

The view from my room.

A beautiful sunset over the Dead Sea.

A beautiful sunset over the Dead Sea.

Enjoying a final sunset in Jordan.

Enjoying a final sunset in Jordan.

I can’t wait to go back!

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