After breakfast, you’ll be met by your guide and driver and depart from Amman. Today will end in Petra, but along the way, you’ll see several of Jordan’s most intriguing sites.
The first stop is the church of St. George, to the northwest of central Amman in Madaba
. The current building dates only from the end of the 19th century, but during construction an enormous mosaic panel from an earlier 6th-century Byzantine church was unearthed. The original mosaic may have contained as many as two million tiles. What has survived the ages is the earliest known map of the Holy Land, stretching from Egypt to Jordan, with Jerusalem given prominence. It may have once been a tool for pilgrims—a guide to where they would be traveling—but for you it will be a preview of some of the sites you’ll see this week, like the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and the biblical land of Moab.
You’ll continue on to Mount Nebo, one of the holiest sites in the Middle East. It was here that Moses stood and gazed out onto the Holy Land; like he did, you’ll be able to see the Jordan River and Jericho from its peak. On an especially clear day, you may even see as far as Jerusalem. After taking in the views, visit the ruins of a Byzantine chapel, constructed in the fourth century to mark the spot where Moses was believed to have died. It, too, has some notable mosaics and you can also stop at an olive tree planted by John Paul II during his visit to Mount Nebo in 2000.
Afterwards, you’ll stop at the castle at Karak
, which dates from the 12th century. One of the largest Crusader castles in the Levant, it was built atop earlier citadels and reflects an intriguing mix of European (especially French), Byzantine, and Arab fortifications and decorative elements. While it was only used by knights from the Kingdom of Jerusalem for a little over 40 years, the town of Karak remains predominantly Christian. Many residents trace their roots, and their faith, back to the days of the Byzantine Empire.
Your final destination for the day is Petra, where you’ll check into the Petra Guest House. It’s impossible to get any closer to the legendary site you’ll be exploring tomorrow: The hotel sits right next to the orientation center and entrance. After dropping your bags in your room, you might want to get a drink at a bar that bills itself as the oldest in the world, since it incorporates an ancient Nabatean tomb.