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Perched on a summit 20 miles southwest of Amman, by Christian tradition, Mount Nebo marks the site where Moses saw the Promised Land yet was forbidden to enter. Developed into a church complex in the Byzantine period, Mount Nebo is a famous pilgrimage and tour attraction today.

History and Archaeology of Mount Nebo

According to the bible, at Mount Nebo, Moses finally saw the Holy Land after years of leading the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Yet forbidden to enter it, he remained on Mount Nebo until his death and was buried nearby (Deutoromy 34:1-6). According to the Book of Maccabees, Mount Nebo is also where Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant (2:4-7). In the 4th century, a church was built on the top of the site, and a monastery developed around it. However, by the 10th century, the site was abandoned.

In 1932 the Francsicans purchased the site, and excavated it in the subsequent years. The excavations uncovered the foundations of the monastic complex with a few mosaic floors. Surprisingly, these mosaic floors do not bear any themes relating to any biblical story. Instead, they depict scenes of hunting exotic African animals and several dedicatory inscriptions in Greek, thanking donors who supported the monastery.

Touring Mount Nebo

Known in Arabic as ‘Siyagha,’ Mount Nebo is open every day of the week and has an admission fee. In 2016 the Franciscans added walkways around the mosaics of the Byzantine-era church. In the monastery’s courtyard is a 25-foot-high serpentine-cross sculpture. Created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni, this artwork combines the healing copper serpent made by Moses with Jesus’ cross. The courtyard also provides breathtaking panoramas of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, and the Judea and Samaria mountains.

A tour of Mount Nebo can be combined with a multi-day tour of Jordan.

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