Mount Nebo, Jordan
| Reykjavik, Iceland
| Travel Guides
Mosaics at church museum
Viewing the Promised Land
Japanese praying on Mount Nebo
Handicapped artisans making mosaics
Gazing At The Promised Land
From The Heights of Mt Nebo
OR the second time in recent memory a Pope
ascended to Mount Nebo in Jordan
to gaze at the land which God promised Moses and the Jewish people.
Moses got a glimpse of the same sight but was not allowed to cross
over into the Promised Land; he died and was buried in Moab, now part
of Jordan (Deuteronomy 34:1).
At the foot of the hill is a pillar commemorating the
visit of the late Pope John Paul II in 2000. The inscription proclaims
"God Is Love."
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope
Benedict XVI made a pilgrimage to Mount Nebo on May 11 and reflected
on a land dear to the world’s three major faiths.
I too journeyed there on a recent autumn morning.
Facing west toward Jericho and Jerusalem, I had a panoramic view of
the Dead Sea to the south and Moab in the foreground. Amman lay beyond
view to the north. Behind me on a promontory stood a bronze Serpentine
Cross sculpture, symbolic of Moses’ brazen snake combined with the
cross of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The area is maintained by the Franciscans. The
Al-Mukhayyat, a Byzantine monastery from the 6th century,
happened to be closed. A small museum held mosaics from the
Diakonikon, 530 BCE, which was a chamber of the Eastern Orthodox and
Greek Catholic churches that stored the vestments, books and other
articles used in the Divine Services.
Soldiers on a machinegun-mounted jeep
guarded the entrance to Mount Nebo. Down the road you’ll encounter the
Travel Art & Mosaic Store where 32 handicapped artisans create mosaics
and other handicrafts for sale. I’m told it takes 45 days to make one
Baptism At Bethany
The Pontiff pilgrimage took him to
Bethany Across the Jordan.
It’s a half-hour drive from Mount Nebo and 45 minutes from Amman.
This is the spot, identified in 1996, where John the Baptist lived
and baptized Jesus, and where the first apostles met, laying the
foundations of the Christian faith. In 2000 John Paul II was
the first to pope to pay a visit here, where he conducted a massive
open air mass.
Archeologists have unearthed remains of
more than 20 churches, caves and baptismal pools. Three chapels were
built here, one on top of the other, in the Byzantine period of the
fifth and sixth centuries. The site, a major pilgrimage destination,
drew 280,000 visitors last year. Various Christian denominations are
building two new churches, a monastery and pilgrimage house.
John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church,
with a gold dome, opened in 2003. On display inside is a wooden box
containing a skull and bones that were unearthed at the baptism site.
Baptism site at Bethany Across the
John the Baptist Greek Orthodox
Jordanian soldier looks at rival baptism site across the
narrow River Jordan in Israel
Inside John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church
Lonely Planet Jordan
is what many people carry
with them. So I
got one too, and found an amazing
amount of descriptive pages of history, current events
and tips which made my journey that much more informative
and enjoyable. Lonely Planet, paperback, 304 pages,
People Power Competes With
Geothermal Power in Iceland
AST November I found myself in
Reykjavik where I got swept up in
a wave of 6,000 angry citizens outside Iceland’s parliament protesting
the country’s economic meltdown and calling for the prime minister to
What was amazing was the peaceful intent of the crowd.
It felt like a picnic, only the eggs and vegetables they brought were
not consumed but smashed against the building. The doors were
padlocked and the prime minister was nowhere to be seen.
What was also amazing was that the few gendarmes on
hand were sympathetic and polite. One officer spotted a piece of
litter, bent down to scoop it up and dropped it in a trash can.
(However, I read that previous protests had turned rowdy, with police
What a country! You can’t help but love them. So
polite and cordial. This is the world’s most northern capital, just
below the Arctic Circle, yet I found the residents warm-hearted and
friendly. The weather helps—the Gulf Stream keeps the climate mild.
Of course, the street protests succeeded. In February
President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson asked the former social affairs
minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, 66, to take over the reigns of
government. A national election in April confirmed her as Iceland’s
first female prime minister and the world’s first openly gay head of
Now that the demonstrations have subsided, there are
other options besides demonstrations to occupy your leisure time.
Reykjavik is renowned for its weekend nightlife, but it doesn’t heat
up till after midnight. For your overnight pub crawl (runtur, in
native speak) you have a choice of 50 bars and clubs and 100
restaurants in the downtown area.
As you’re on vacation and don’t have to head to the
office, take your intoxicated bod to the sulfurous
Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s most
popular attraction set in a lava field in the Reykjanes peninsula (www.bluelagoon.com).
Lava fields cover about 11 percent of Iceland, and there are hundreds
of volcanoes. Of the 15 active volcanoes there is an eruption every
five years of spectacular fireworks.
At the Blue Lagoon enjoy the healing power of the
blue-green water and rejuvenate with fantastic spa treatments and
It might be the middle of a chilly winter but people
float in the lagoon’s geothermal subterranean seawater where the
temperature ranges from 37-39 C (98 to 102 F). I walked around the
spectacular surroundings and gazed at the thick mist over the water.
There is a restaurant, bistro, and a boutique that offers excellent
skin care products consisting of geothermal active ingredients such as
algae, silica and minerals.
national park is where the Vikings first convened world’s oldest
parliament (Alpingi) outdoors in 930 CE. Iceland became a state within
the kingdom of Denmark in 1918 and an independent republic in 1944.
The tectonic plates of North America and Europe are
splitting apart in Pingvellir. Thought you should know that you can
straddle two continents here. The tectonic plates are one of the five
wonders of Iceland, the others being glaciers that cover 10 percent of
the island, and the geothermal wonders of steaming geysers, cascading
waterfalls and belching volcanoes.
Nearby you will marvel at the boiling mud craters and
incredible spouting hot springs around Geysir
and Strokkur. Geysir seldom
erupts, but Strokkur shoots up a column of water and steam every few
minutes that amazed me. Nearby is the awesome
Gullfoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
Lonely Planet Iceland is packed with
more information you’ll ever need for an enjoyable visit to
this fascinating island nation. Lonely Planet, paperback, 356 pages,
Frommer’s Iceland is extremely
helpful with suggested itineraries and fascinating sidebars, such as
sighting "the little people." Wiley Publishing, paperback, 376 pages,
Photoshop Lightroom Adventure
wonderful book that features an array of beautiful photographs of
Iceland. In 2007 ace photographer Mikkel Aaland led a group of 12
professional photographers to master Adobe Lightroom 1.0 on a
discovery journey to Iceland. Their adventure produced in an
attractive book describing and explaining Adobe’s new all-in-one
imaging application illustrated with outstanding images of Iceland.
(O’Reilly, softcover, 350 pages, $39.99) Subsequently Aaland led
another band of visual artists on a similar mission to test the
Lightroom 2.0 upgrade, this time on a road trip to the island of
Tasmania off Australia’s southeast coast. The result is
Photoshop Lightroom 2 Adventure
(O’Reilly, softcover, 365 pages, $44.99). See more at