This is one of those places in which one feels revived, where the spiritual side is awakened. Bethany beyond the Jordan is full of symbols. At first glance it may seem nothing too special, just a dry valley, but it is enough to start walking there to get involved in the atmosphere of history and symbolism that is all around. Driving from Amman is a great experience, the view is impressive. One descends gradually to the lowest point on earth. A stop at Mount Nebo -another of the places of religious significance is almost mandatory- from there it is possible to see the Dead Sea, Jericho, and all the way to Jerusalem.
Once ones arrive to the the welcoming center of this historical place it is easy to note that it is a very especial area. Not only is important as a place of religious pilgrimage, but we are here in the international border controlled by Israel and Jordan. It is not possible just to walk by oneself over there, at least this is the explanation to make visitors to take the tour that costs 15 JOD, but at the end it is a pleasant experience, since one is taken in an air conditioned motorcar and an audio guide is given. The first stop is the place where many believed the prophet Elijah ascended into heaven. From there it is already possible to appreciate some of the cupolas of the various churches that different christian denominations have been building in the area. This is actually a huge territory that is dedicated just to spiritual affairs and the only buildings allowed are those for religious purposes.
The little bus makes a final stop and from there one starts walking. Then is possible to appreciate the real beauty of the place. It is impressive to see such a unique flora. There are little dusty roads all around, it is really a peaceful experience. After some minutes of walking one arrives to a place with ancient ruins of what is believed to be an old Church. It marks the place where Christians believe from ancient times, Jesus was baptized. This is not the actual location of the Jordan river, the river has shifted its course several times and it takes some more minutes walking to arrive there. The river itself is small, but a powerful spot for many who want to go inside and remember the baptism of Jesus and their own baptism in their respective faiths. The Israeli side is just meters away, so close and at the same time so far away: another of the many contradictions that one finds on earth.
Beyond being Christian or religious at all, Bethany beyond the Jordan is a must for any visitor to Jordan. It was rediscovered in recent years, since the exact location was lost for centuries. There have been many illustrious visitors to this spot in the last years from Popes, to kings, presidents and many more. Jordan as a country is a place with vast historical and archaeological heritage, this is a destination to enjoy and to be in touch with powerful spiritual sites.
On May 24, 2014 Pope Francis will be visiting Jordan with an stop in the Baptismal site and he will celebrate Mass in Amman. More information can be found in the official page of the Jordanian Tourism Authority