Hiking the Valley of God “Nahal’eil”
The weather forecast warned of a snow storm and freezing temperatures in Amman, Jordan, but nothing could stop us. We were heading to a different world; one with hot springs and waterfalls, palm trees, red sandstone, and beauty everywhere we looked, we were heading to piece of paradise in the desert, to the biblical Valley of God; Callirhoe, locally known as Wadi Zarqa Ma’in.
Taking the Kings Highway with a hiking team from Jordan, the Dead Sea greeted me from a far; a view I never tire off. It was wavy that morning, sun rays made their way shyly to its surface through the dense clouds forming many patches of glittering light blue, a beautiful rainbow framed it from a far, all conspiring to make my happiness complete.
You would think nothing of it from the highway, but the minute I entered the Zarqa Ma’in lower gorge, I found myself surrounded by amazing red sandstone mountains. Last night’s rain sent some of the boulders tumbling down creating new challenges but never without added beauty. New puddles formed from the melted sandstone; some red, some yellow. The rain raised the level of the stream and brought its temperature down. My legs pushed their way against the strong current; my trekking pole was my third eye testing the depth of the stream before I made any step.
The further we trekked in, the hotter and stronger the current became. The avalanches brought down bigger boulders which required finding new paths to pass, ropes to bypass, and a lot of teamwork to make it through the slippery, unstable rocks.
The steam intensified and by now I started to smell sulfur faintly. The sand rocks has done an amazing job so far filtering the smell, by the time it reached the Dead Sea, it is odor free.
Looking around, palm trees increased in numbers forming an oasis in the middle of the desert. In the distance, I saw a black palm tree probably hit by last night lightening.
We came across the first water fall, tied our rope and climbed up, and all sudden it started to rain. The cold showers did little to deter us and we pushed on as the waters of the stream kept us warm.
The newly formed pools we met along the way were getting up to 10 m deep, the mud made it impossible to swim without the risk of drowning so we stayed away.
We picked a beautiful spot to start fire, to rest, dry up, and eat. The best food I‘ve ever had is food eaten in the wilderness; soon followed the hot sweet tea and the Turkish coffee.
The basalt rocks did an amazing job warming me up. Within close proximity to the fire we started, they acquired its heat and retained it offering a blissful added source of warmth.
We were soon up on our feet heading for the major waterfalls. The streams became darker with all the minerals in them. Small caves covered with moss and Maidenhair ferns nourished by the dripping water came into view, the stalactites and travertine increased in number. I started to hear the white noise of the major waterfalls. By now, all traces of the city have made their way out of my heart and mind, by now, I was one with nature.
I could see both waterfalls from a far; I could see the steam rising up in the sky. Sixty three hot springs, an ancient volcano dating back to the Kingdom of Moab and Edom has heated the basalt eternally raising their temperature to a blistering 60°C , and with a velocity of 236-549 cubic meters per hour, they offered an excellent thermal bath and an amazing massage service 🙂 The water itself is rich with potassium, magnesium, calcium among other minerals which gives it healing properties for all kinds of diseases; arthritis, skin or respiratory to name a few.
Through history, kings and commoners alike took turns to benefit from these healing properties. Josephus writes of King Herod’s visit,
“Yet did [Herod] struggle with his numerous disorders, and still had a desire to live, and hoped for recovery, and considered of several methods of cure. Accordingly, he went over Jordan, and made use of those hot baths at Callirrhoe, which run into the lake Asphaltitis, but are themselves sweet enough to be drunk.” (War 1.33.5, trans. by Whiston).
Due to their value, the springs were also depicted in the famous Madaba map with three buildings, palm trees, and the caption “the hot springs of Callirhoe.”
With the amazing view of the waterfalls, the Evason Resort on the backdrop, my hike came to an end in a valley that has its name carved eternally in history, and forever in my heart.
Click here for a Maen Spring video
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PS: This blog reflects my personal opinion and my personal take on many issues. Its not a scientific paper, the information used is based on internet searches rather than scholarly articles. Its purpose is to entertain and everything mentioned is open for debate and correction. Content & Photos are copyrighted