Wadi Kharar : a blessed land.
First broadcast date
The site is declared holy for Christians as it is the place where Jesus Christ ( peace be upon him) performed his baptism over 2000 years ago. From then on, the site became a pilgrimage place for Christians from all over the world, and Jordan was put in the list of religious tourism destinations.
The baptistery is located in Wadi kharar, in Beit Ania village, East of Jordan. It is 50 kms from the capital and 9 kms from the Dead Sea. It overlooks Jericho, El Qods West of Jordan River and Mount Nebo to the East.
Television - Own production
JRTV - Jordan Television
Tourism and cultural sites
- Historical heritages / Latin and oriental christendom
- Society and way of life / Religious Practices
Credits / Cast
- Naif Khelifa - Director
- Mahmoud Atell - Speaker
- Kobeilat Oubed - Author of original work
- Jordan - Transjordan Plateau - Jordan Valley
Tourist groups - churches - mosaics - the holy river
The place where Christ was baptised, Al-Maghtas, is one of the most important Christian holy sites in Jordan. It has been excavated since 1994, but the thorny question of which bank of the River Jordan it was on remains unanswered – indeed that has been an issue which has intrigued writers since the 4th century. Today the controversy continues and is now visible: there is one “official site” on the Israeli side of the river and another opposite it, in Jordan. There is even a third site on the shores of Lake Tiberias.
The late 19th century was marked by the arrival of biblical archaeology, introduced by Western religious scholars and Orientalists. Many of these scholars were affiliated to institutions based in Jerusalem. They travelled the Middle East in search of the places referred to in the Bible, including the site of Christ's baptism
From the late 19th century the excavations and research began at Wadi al-Maghtas. However, being close to the Dead Sea, in the Jordan Valley, the site was in the middle of a large military zone, which explains why, in the context of global and regional conflicts, the area was not excavated during the 20th century.
In fact it was only after the signing of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel in 1994, that the excavations could really get going. The initiative came from the Franciscan Michele Piccirillo, who was running the site at Mount Nebo, and Prince Ghazi ibn Muhammad, the head of religious affairs for the Jordanian crown. Several excavations were conducted by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities under the direction of archaeologists such as Mohammad Wahib. These excavations have led to the discovery of the various sites mentioned in the JRTV documentary: Wadi Kharar, associated with the holy figure of Mary the Egyptian, Elijah's mountain, John the Baptist's cave and the place where Christ was baptised. These major shrines are part of surveys based primarily on biblical texts. In twenty years a dense cartography has been developed on the site known in Arabic as al-Maghtas (meaning immersion, or baptism) and which the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities calls Bethany, a place of pilgrimage associated with a rich pantheon of saints.
The discovery of this place has enabled the development of a Christian topography in Jordan, especially since the country has become part of the Christian Holy Land. The fact that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both made pilgrimages here has put this site firmly and officially in the Christian Holy Land, which in turn has led to an increase in visitors (Katz, 2003). In 2010, about 161,000 tourists of various nationalities visited Wadi al-Maghtas, making it the most visited Christian site in the country, even more popular than the map of the Holy Land in Madaba or Mount Nebo.
Kimberly Katz, «Legitimizing Jordan as the Holy Land : Papal Pilgrimages-1964-2000», in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 23:1 et 2, 2003, pp. 181 à 189.
Mohammad Waheeb, The Great Discovery, Jesus Baptism site, Amman, 2009.
Neil Asher Silberman, Digging for God and Country, Exploration in the Holy Land, New York, Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1982.