The Jordan River is among the most popular sites for tourists in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, for obvious reasons. This is among the most prominently represented of all the bodies of water in the region when it comes to the Biblical scripture: not only has it been the site of the baptism of Jesus, it is also where the Old Testament prophet Elisha ascended to heaven as well as the site of the famous crossing of the Israelites into their promised land under the leadership of Joshua. Indeed, this has to be among the places you visit if ever you do come to the country.
The Jordan River is actually only about 20 kilometres away from the capital of the kingdom, Amman, which makes it immensely accessible to most tourists. There are countless holy sites to visit here, but perhaps the most well-known is the place the Arabs call Al Maghtas. This is the Baptism site of Jesus Christ, a tourist spot now in the care of the National Jordanian Park.
There are regular tours to the baptismal site, and you can in fact schedule your own trip under care of a guide while you are in the Jordanian capital. You can expect to be taken not only to the supposed actual location of the baptism but also to the surrounding points of interest and structures. There is a fine church near the baptismal site, for example, that many tourists go to for photos, it being a rather delicate example of local architecture. And, of course, you can take photos of the river itself. Those who have seen their fair share of large rivers had best school their expectations, however: the Jordan River is not known for being among the “great” rivers of the world, at least where size is concerned. In fact, at its deepest points, the river barely passes the 5-metre mark in depth.
Unfortunately, that figure might well be getting smaller in the near future. In recent decades, scientists and environmentalists have noted a startlingly rapid shrinkage in the Jordan River, which they say is being caused by a confluence of negative factors in the area. One of these would be the presence of excessive siltation and waste disposal into many of the river’s downstream parts. An even greater problem, though, according to some, may be found in the territorial disputes that have seen the river being diverted, dammed, and divided into a confused series of waterways and irrigation channels by the countries around it.
The Jordan River is to this day a controversial body of water, one that Lebanon, Syria, the Palestine, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and Israel are still fighting over. Rights to the water that flows through this river are being contested by these nations, and the topic has in fact been the source of several conflicts in the region, just one example being the Six Day War of Israel and Syria. The situation is perhaps only complicated by the indubitable significance of the river to several faiths and their histories. Whatever the case, it is a place of great import to the people living around it, as well as to those whose religions hold the sites situated near it to be significant to their backgrounds.