By Antonio Malara
This post starts where the Amman post ends, the first story about my adventure in Jordan. I recommend reading it in order to understand the following even better.
That morning after visiting the Amman Citadel we moved by bus to reach the two further destinations planned for that day; Machaerus and al-Karak. Even though I couldn't say I knew Amman, looking out the bus window, I knew we were traveling on different roads than the day before. I noticed new design buildings and above all many villas that, even if they had different styles, were all beautiful and original, especially those that appeared to be built in stone. Leaving the city, the hilly scenery began to appear again but this time to my pleasant surprise, the hills were green. Let's say that on the yellow hills there was a remnant of green grass, this scenario that mixed for the first time two colors of opposite concepts accompanied us until the arrival at Machaerus.
Personally I didn’t know anything about the place we were going to visit, I listened to Don Valerio in the background talking about some difficulties regarding the visit of the site but I had not committed myself to understand the reason. We got off the bus in a large parking area that was totally deserted but I still saw uncertainties in the group, then Don Valerio explained that climbing to the top of Machaerus was a bit difficult for less agile people, so to form a group, the others would have seen it from the vantage point. Walking to reach the mountain I understood why; Machaerus stood out with its circular shape in the middle of two valleys and the road to begin climbing it was downstream. This hill was in a stunning position with the Dead Sea behind it and other mountains beyond the valleys. Although challenging to achieve, the shape of the Machaerus was still beautiful, it did not seem a threatening place but rather gave harmony. The road leading to the top was quite wide but made of stony material so you had to be careful not to slip. Personally, I didn’t find any difficulties, just a little attention was enough, but it was rewarded by the view. In fact, along the mountain, another beautiful view of the Dead Sea began to open. At the top, the view was breathtaking because the yellow tinged with green of the hills broke on the horizon with the blue of the sea and the sky that seemed to be one thing only. The summit was very wide and rather flat, it was a site full of large blocks of stone scattered here and there, all wild. On one side, two columns remained standing, the sign of what must have once been a temple, and in the opposite direction on the sea side there was a rectangle formed of stones, like a council chamber. We sat there, side by side until we took up half of the rectangle, there Don Valerio began to tell a story that I remembered reading and that made me understand why we were on that mountain. Here took place the facts narrated in the Gospel about Salomé's story, his famous dance and the request for the head of John the Baptist. Don Valerio read that crucial passage from the Gospel of which I want to quote here the final part, hoping that by doing so it can do the same the effect he had on me and all the people present there that day.
“When Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced in public and Herod liked it so much that he swore to give her everything she asked for. And she, instigated by her mother, said: "Give me here, on a tray, the head of John the Baptist".
The king was saddened, but because of the oath and the diners he ordered it to be given to her and sent John to be beheaded in the prison. Her head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she carried it to her mother.
His disciples went to take the body, buried it and went to inform Jesus "
After finishing the reading, Don Valerio looked at us and looked around saying: “here, this is all that remains of that barbaric, violent and furious night”.
In a moment I lived the whole narration of Don Valerio as if it had been there in front of my eyes, then I turned to look at the ruins making a journey thousands of years long in just one second! This was the power of storytelling, an hour before I didn't know what place I was going to visit, then I realized that that place was the location of an important historical fact that I had read and then suddenly it was as if I had lived it! The story of the historical facts narrated in the place where they occurred but in the conditions in which it was now, gave a unique teaching. The temporariness of everything! The ecstasy, the power, everything will eventually be reduced to any ruin.
After that good life lesson, we focused on lighter things, like photography. We spent that little time on top of the mountain and on the way back to photograph that magnificent, wild and unprotected place; as I liked it.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D800