Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jerash, Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, and the Dead Sea

Today was a packed schedule full of many amazing sites. Our day started in Jerash, the site of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, also referred to as Antioch on the Golden River. Jerash is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the Near East. It was a city of the Decapolis. It was amazing to see the vast expanse of the ruins, which are still being uncovered. Because it was a Greco-Roman city, some of the features we saw of the ruins reminded of the Colosseum in Rome. Not only were the ruins fascinating in and of themselves, but the views of the surrounding area from the ruins was also stunning.

After Jerash, we had chicken swharma and falafel sandwiches on the bus on our way towards the Dead Sea and Bethany Beyond The Jordan, the site which has longed believed to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. It was a very emotional experience for me, bringing me to tears as I dipped my feet into the same river where Jesus was baptized. Fresh in my mind was the passage of scripture from the Bible, 'and behold, a voice from heaven said, "this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased." '. What a humbling experience to visit this holy site.

Afterwards we made our way to the Dead Sea. Also called the Salt Sea, the Dead Sea is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are 1,388 ft below sea level, Earth's lowest elevation on land. With 33.7% salinity, it is also one of the world's saltiest bodies of water and is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. We are staying at a hotel and spa resort on the edge of the Sea. This hotel is quite a step up from the hotel where we had been staying.

After check in, we had some free time to swim and relax. Eager to see the impact of the water's saltiness on their buoyency, many participants of the trip took a dip right away. It was neat to see them floating atop the water. I look forward to trying it out tomorrow.

Time for bed! Tomorrow we are off to Petra.

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