I made a quick run through Jordan this summer. Along the way, I stopped by some familiar places, visited with some dear friends, and even captured a new site. Let me take a moment to share the site. I’ve been driving by it for years and didn’t even know it! Go ahead and chuckle.
The place is called Khirbet et-Tannur. It rests in this dry canyon (wadi) known locally as al-Hasa. The Hasa system drains into the southern end of the Dead Sea. Biblically, the watercourse is identified as the Zered. The wandering Israelites passed this way on the way to the promised land (Deut 2:13-14). Personally, the only promise on my mind this afternoon (as the temperatures hovered at about 105 degrees) was to find ice cream before nightfall!
Let me show you why et-Tannur has eluded me. Here is the sign announcing the turnoff from the blacktop. Can you read it? It is impossible to decipher in any language. After the turnoff, one must travel another kilometer or so on a washed out desert track. GPS is a wonderful technology; our little rental car will never be quite so wonderful again. One tire was mortally wounded and would go flat before this adventure was over. I hate to think about the alignment.
Finally the road gave out and there was the site. I recognized it from photographs. Click on this link to check out the aerial view and you can see the walls that remain from the time of Christ. Due to the heat of the day, I did not attempt the trail. But others have. In fact, for those who identify with Cincinnati, this site is especially important. In 1937, the desert explorer (and president of Hebrew Union College) Nelson Glueck excavated a Nabatean Temple on the top of this knob. It was made of stone and was ornately decorated with dolphins (of all things!). Glueck arranged to have the entire temple dismantled, schlepped down this path (!), loaded on trucks, and hauled to the USA. It now is on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum along with what may very well be the largest collection of Nabatean artifacts outside of Jordan itself. You really should go see them. But when you go, try to forget the air conditioning and cold drinks and imagine this truly austere setting.
Of course, no visit to the Wadi al-Hasa would be complete without stopping to say “hi” to the critters. Here are some truly poor fellows. Can you see how the legs of these donkeys are hobbled to keep them from running away?
No such restraints are needed for the goats and sheep. They have a shepherd sitting in the keeping an eye on them.