The 1st century AD Roman-Jewish historian Josephus identified the awe-inspiring site of Machaerus (modern-day Mukawir) as the palace-fortress of Herod Antipas, the Roman-appointed regional ruler during the life of Jesus Christ. It was here, at this hilltop fortified palace overlooking the Dead Sea region and the distant hills of Palestine and Israel that Herod imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist. He was beheaded after Salome’s fateful dance. (Matthew 14:3-11)
On a clear night you can easily make out the lights of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Ariha (Jericho). Far removed from the tourist circuit, the quiet of this area transports you back into Biblical times. Indeed, shepherds and their flocks still find shelter in the myriad caves and grottoes around Machaerus. Hike down towards the Dead Sea from Machaerus and you will truly feel that you are on top of the world.
Bani Hamida Weaving Centre & Gallery
This women’s cooperative in Mukawir village (by the side of the road leading to the castle) is run by the Bani Hamida Centre and is a good place to buy gorgeous, colourful kilims and cushions. Designs reflect contemporary tastes and traditional Bedouin patterns. The kilims aren’t super cheap, but the fixed prices fairly reflect the labour that went into their weaving.
The women who run the centre speak little English but welcome you to the workshop. For an excellent anthropological take on the Bani Hamida story, it’s worth picking up a copy of A Bedouin Perspective (JD5) by Sue Jones, who worked with the Jebel Bani Hamida women in the early 1990s. This booklet is for sale in the showroom. Hours are extremely erratic.