Nearly 2000 years ago, on a beautiful mountain, over looking the Dead Sea, John the Baptist became yet another casualty to then King Herod, an overzealous, maniacal tyrant who requested his head as a birthday present. Hardly surprising, given he had already become known for murdering members of his own family, including several wives as well as Rabbi’s. All in an attempt to thwart the spread of Christianity, to which King Herod eventually converted anyway.
Machaerus, a site unknown to even most Jordanians sits nearly 30km outside of Madaba. Nestled between Mt. Nebo; where Moses was shown the Promise Land and Wadi Mujib; one of the regions most fantastic canyon/river hikes. While most of the known tourist sites, such as Petra or Jerash or even the Baptism site of Jesus are over crowded with foreigners covered in camping clothes some sly salesman suggested were appropriate for the desert, Mukawir remains undiscovered and almost entirely desolate.
Hiking 15 minutes nearly straight up hill to be met head on with a series of columns and dilapidated walls, the remnants of the castle itself are hardly impressive. Yet, the views of the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley are unprecedented. Having done this hike twice in the last two months, the elevation affords enough of a breeze so even in the sweltering summer heat the 4km hike beyond the castle and along the ridge to the look out point is entirely doable. Since no one else is around, with the exception of a possible random herd of sheep or camels, wearing shorts becomes PC and the benefits of the Dead Sea air is available without sweltering in the valley below. Take a car, a picnic, roll down the windows and surprise yourself with one of the most inspiring hidden treasures Jordan has to offer.
If, however,you go looking for John the Baptist’s head, you will be disappointed. It rests peacefully nearly 400 km away in the Ommayed Mosque in the Old City of Damascus.