April 27 was Easter in Jordan this year. I knew that Orthodox churches use a different calendar, but here all the Christian churches celebrate Easter using the Orthodox calendar. Apparently they struck a deal with the Orthodox -- December 25 is Christmas in both churches and they use the Orthodox calendar for Easter.
I decided to celebrate Easter by driving my car out of Amman for the first time and going to see the site where Jesus was baptized. The drive was less than an hour. I only made one wrong turn at a corner where the sign was only in Arabic and soon found the visitors' center. They make everyone park some distance from the site and we all got on a shuttle bus (truck actually) with a guide.
We drove past some border guards, then walked a short distance to a new baptism building. Now many people come to be baptized in pools filled from the River Jordan.
We followed a narrow winding path for half a mile or so until we came to a small spring. Fresh water is scarce in this part of the world and the spring was used both for drinking water and also for baptisms.
The guide explained that for many years this whole area had been off limits for military reasons, until the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. Shortly after that, archaelogists began exploring and found remains of three chapels built here during the fifth and sixth centuries AD. He also explained that then the river bank was here, by the chapels but now it is several hundred yards away. The river is much smaller now because lots of water is used for irrigation and the river may also have changed its path.
I chatted with three young women who were tourists from Lebanon. I took a picture of them with their camera then they took a picture for me.
We continued down the path until we arrived at the River Jordan. I was surprised at how small the river is -- less than ten yards across. Immediately on the other side was Israel and a church that brings tourists for baptisms. On our side was a small platform and I went down and dipped my toe in the river.
A short distance away is a new Orthodox church.
We returned to the shuttle bus and I drove a few miles downstream, just beyond where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea. I found "Amman Beach", a small resort where people can swim in the Dead Sea and swimming pools. I jumped in and quickly discovered that swimming was almost impossible. The water was so salty that it hurt my eyes even when I kept them closed. Also I floated so high in the water that I couldn't do much more than lie on my back and paddle around a bit. It was hard to put my feet down -- they wanted to float to the top.
Dead Sea mud is apparently famous. I'm not sure what it really does, but people covered themselves in the mud then let it dry before they jumped into the sea.
The pool was much better for swimming! I swam for a bit, found a resaurant for a late lunch and drove back to Amman.