A UNESCO World Heritage site might soon become home to souvenir shops, boutique hotels, walking trails, and botanical gardens.
The site, Bethany Beyond The Jordan, is widely recognized as the exact spot Jesus was baptised. For centuries, the piles of ruins, located in the Jordan Valley and near the Dead Sea, have welcomed visitors from around the globe to relish in a glimpse of biblical history, enhance their spiritual connections, and even take part in their own baptism. But Bethany Beyond The Jordan may become a whole lot more built up in the coming years.
Last week, a $300 million, six-year project for a “tourist city” bordering the religious site was announced at an event located at the river bank. Attendees included Jordan’s King Abdullah and Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, along with architects, museum curators, and investors.
The goal is two-fold: First, to preserve the site and its ancient history (extensive, unregulated excavations since the mid-1990s have unearthed Christian pilgrimage ruins but tampered with the once-untouched landscape), and, second, to restoke religious spirit.
“We are talking about rustic stones and pebbles in architectural designs that preserve the place’s pristine nature and ensure that the sanctity and spirituality that existed 2,000 years ago are not trampled on by any development,” said Kamel Mahadin, one of the architects behind the designs.