Mukawir, also known as Machaerus, is a fortified palace that overlooks the iconic Dead Sea. Although little remains of this regal landmark today, visitors can still explore the Roman baths and castle walls that contributed to its defense system.
Location of Mukawir
Mukawir is located right on top of a hill just two kilometers from the village of Mukawir. The hill towers 1100 meters above the Dead Sea and the castle can be viewed from afar. It is a steep climb to reach the castle but the views are certainly worth it. The closest city to Mukawir is Madaba which is just one hour away by car.
When translated, Mukawir is commonly known as the ‘Castle of the Gallows’ due to the fact that John the Baptist was beheaded here. Over the years this site has played a significant role in Greek, Roman and Jewish history and it is particularly notable for being where Salome, the daughter of Herod II and his wife Herodias, sealed the fate of John the Baptist. The story is that Salome’s dance skills in the castle mesmerized John the Baptist so much so that he granted anything she desired. Salome then requested his head to be served on a platter, hence his beheading at the castle. Mukawir is also believed to be the place where Jesus was taken to Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, for questioning.
Things to Do at Mukawir
Much of the remains at Mukawir may be unrecognizable but the site is still an interesting place to visit. A large proportion of the castle was built by Herod the Great and visitors can explore the original wall which was constructed to protect it. During an excavation project, archaeologists uncovered a large section of the palace which includes a courtyard, mosaics, and a bath. All of the ruins are clearly identifiable and can be covered on foot within a few hours.
How to Visit Mukawir
Mukawir can be visited any day between 8 am and 6 pm and costs 1.5 JD (2.12 USD) per person. Those who have purchased the Jordan Pass can visit Mukawir for free. There are many tours which leave Amman and take visitors to the palace of Mukawir. Visitors can book these tours in advance through hotels and local tour information offices.
With so many notable historical events, a visit to Mukawir is very overwhelming. Not only can visitors walk in the footsteps of Herod the Great, Jesus Christ and Salome but they can also bask in the glorious views of the Dead Sea.
The site is particularly beautiful at sunset and visitors can also combine the visit with a trip to three Byzantine churches that are located at the bottom of the hill. The palace is within an easy reach of all the major cities in Jordan via the King’s Highway.