Jordan has big ambitions for the future of Al-Maghtas, the alleged historic site of Christ’s baptism. Objective: attract one million visitors by 2030.
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The year 2030 will mark the bimillenary of the baptism of Christ on the banks of the Jordan River. And Jordan, which is home to one of the presumed sites of this important Gospel episode, wants to be ready for this event. Thus, Al-Maghtas, which is a few kilometers from the city of Jericho and which would be this “Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan” mentioned by the Evangelist John (Jn 1, 28), should be completely redesigned, according to a plan presented a few days ago in the presence of King Abdallah II and his adviser for religious affairs, Prince Ghazi Ben Mohammed. At a cost of 100 million dollars, it plans to expand the existing facilities, while respecting the integrity and “spirituality” of this place listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. to specify.
“A Biblical Village” recreated
Asked by Religion News Service, the main promoter of the project and former Minister of Labour, Samir Murad, claims to have rejected proposals for luxury hotels, favoring the concept of a “biblical village, which tries to recreate a 2,000-year-old experience”, with less expensive camping-type accommodation for pilgrims. They will also have the choice between several restaurants serving “local organic food”. The work should take place in two phases; the first, estimated at 15 million dollars, should be completed in 2023. The second, amounting to 85 million dollars, includes the construction of a “three-star hotel, a commercial area, a museum, a wellness center -être (…) as well as botanical gardens”. The idea being “to create an atmosphere similar to that of the old city of Jerusalem”, assures Murad. There remains the question of funding, for which fundraising should be organized, particularly within the Baptist World Alliance, which is very involved in this enterprise.
Rediscovered in 1994, Al-Maghtas is the site of archaeological excavations a few years later; these revealed in particular the ruins of churches and monasteries from the Byzantine period, as well as hermit caves and baptismal fonts. Proof that this place is the object of an ancient veneration. Reopened in 2002 and placed under the guard of a Jordanian royal commission, it attracts Christian pilgrims of all faiths. However, the crowd is less in Qasr Al-Yahoud, the other site commemorating the baptism of Christ, located on the other side of the Jordan – in Palestinian territory under Israeli control – and whose Franciscan church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist was returned to worship in 2020. It would therefore seem that the Jordanian initiative would therefore aim to “rebalance” the flow of visitors and attract more to Al-Maghtas.