Mount Nebo in Jordan: Basilica, Moses and the Promised Land

Jordan #3: Nebo Mountain

Mount Nebo (Arabic: Jabal Nībū) in Jordan is a legendary place from which the biblical Moses was to see the Promised Land for the first time. Currently, there is the Sanctuary of Moses with an archaeological park.

Image of Moses on Mount Nebo.


Writing about Mount Nebo (in Arabic: Jabal Nībū) in Jordan, one cannot mention its history, both biblical and more modern.

Mount Nebo in the Old Testament

As for the first mention of the Jordanian mountain, we will find them in the Old Testament, and more specifically in the description of the conquest of Canaan and Exodus after the people of Israel came out of Egyptian captivity. The leader of the Israelites, called Moses, opposed God and therefore could not reach the land of the Fathers. Here are the words that God spoke to Moses:

Climb this mountain of Abarim: Mount Nebo, in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to Israel. You will die there on the mountain you will climb [...] Because you were not faithful to me among the Israelites in the waters of Meriba near Kadesh, in the Cin desert, you did not reveal my holiness among the Israelites, therefore you will only see this land from afar, but you will not enter to this land that I give to Israel.

It follows that Moses, for his sin, could climb Mount Nebo in Jordan and look at the land promised to the Israelites, but he had no right to enter it. A little further, in the same chapter, we can read that Moses actually climbed the hill and died on it, so that Israelis could settle here:

Moses ascended from the steppes of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the peak of Pisga, opposite Jericho. Yahweh showed him all the land of Gilead up to Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah, all the way to the West Sea, Negeb, the district of the valley near Jericho, the city of palms, and unto Soar. [...] There, Moses died in the land of Moab [...], and no one knows his grave to this day.

Image depicting the death of Moses on Mount Nebo.

Interestingly, after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, it was near the Mount Nebo according to the Bible that the Ark of the Covenant was hidden. At the foot of the mountain there was once the city of Nebo, which the Old Testament also mentions in several places.

As for the city of Nebo itself, archaeological excavations confirmed its existence and dated its creation during the Bronze Age.

Building protecting excavated remains of the church, Mount Nebo, Jordan.

Byzantine Sanctuary and archaeological site on Mount Nebo

At the beginning of Christianity, the sanctuary of Moses was built on the hill of Nebo in Jordan. In the Middle Ages, many Christian pilgrims went not only to Jerusalem or Jericho, but also to the Moses Spring (Oyun Musa) and Mount Nebo. However, in the sixteenth century, only destroyed ruins were found, and the whole fell into oblivion. It wasn't until much later that the whole was rediscovered thanks to ancient records and subsequent archaeological excavations.

It is dated that the sanctuary of Moses was built in the first part of the 4th century AD. The Byzantine Sanctuary at Mount Nebo included a church, atrium and cells. Thanks to the inscriptions on the mosaics, we know that in year 531 the floors were decorated by artists named Elias, Soleos and Kaiomos.

Modern times

Since 1932, monks from the Custody of the Holy Land have been dealing with Mount Nebo, an archaeological park and its ancient monuments. The hill is often visited by famous people or presidents of various countries.

Basilica on Mount Nebo, Jordan.

It is worth mentioning the visit of Pope John Paul II, who on March 20, 2000 came to Mount Nebo, where he planted an olive tree. On this occasion, the sculpture of Vincenzo Bianchini was set up - the Monolith of the Jubilee Year 2000. Of course, it is also worth adding that Mount Nebo in Jordan is not only an important place for Christians, because Moses is considered a great prophet also in Islam.

The legend of a lost treasure - Ark of the Covenant

Adherents of old legends and adventurers will no doubt be interested in the story of the lost treasure. There is a Jewish legend associated with Mount Nebo, which was recorded in the Second Book of Maccabees, according to which somewhere at the foot of the hill was hidden the Ark of the Covenant, which was saved from Babylon, whose invasion of this place dates back to the beginning of the 6th century BC.

Basilica on Mount Nebo

The modern basilica on Mount Nebo in Jordan will not impress us, especially if we are used to similar buildings in Europe. However, despite the fact that the church is relatively small, its location on a hill towering over the whole area is impressive. Part of the basilica dates from the sixth century, but most were built much later.

Mosaic from 531, Mount Nebo, Jordan.

6th Century Mosaic

Inside the basilica, we must see the mosaic from year 531 (we will find it to the left of the main entrance), on which we will find various stages, mainly hunting and pastoral. We will also see animals that inhabited Jordan at the beginning of the 20th century - a lion, a zebra, an ostrich or a spotted camel. Unfortunately, we will not find them here anymore.


A small museum was also built next to the basilica, where we will be able to see objects found during archaeological excavations (old columns, parts of mosaics, vessels) and photos of the area.

Viewing terrace

This is the place on Mount Nebo in Jordan that I liked the most. Right next to the basilica we will find a viewing terrace, from which there is a fantastic and beautiful view of the surrounding area, from where, with good visibility, you can see not only the Dead Sea, but (apparently) even Jerusalem.

Below I add a video of the panorama and views from Mount Nebo - it is something worth seeing, right?

Monument of John Paul II

As I mentioned in the paragraph about the history of Mount Nebo, in 2000 Pope John Paul II came to Jordan and planted an olive tree near the basilica.

A cross entwined by a snake, a symbol of Moses, a statue of John Paul II on Mount Nebo, Jordan.

To commemorate this event, exactly in the place from where the view of the Holy Land extends, a bronze monument was placed, which depicts a cross entwined by a snake - a symbol of the rod of Moses.

Practical information

Below you will find the most important practical information on accommodation, directions, prices, tickets and opening hours of Mount Nebo in Jordan.

How to get to Mount Nebo?

The closest to Mount Nebo is the city of Madaba, from which it is also easiest to get here. We can try hitch-hiking because the distance from the city is only 10 kilometers. I do not mention public transport, because from many sources I was told that it is not worth relying on it (they do not come or arrive when they want).

However, if we want to get here in a more reliable way, we can come here by taxi, which should cost us about 5 JOD (about 7 USD).


The price of tickets to the mountain of Nebo is 2 JOD (about 3 USD). When you receive your ticket, do not throw it away - on its back you will find a map of the whole place with marked places such as the Basilica of Moses, the Museum, the Road of Peace, the monument of the cross with a snake or the millennium monument by Vincenco Bianchi.

Madaba city, Jordan. It is best to spend the night here before or after the visit to Mount Nebo.

Opening hours

Mount Nebo in Jordan is open from May to September from 08:00 AM to 06:00 PM, and from October to April from 08:00 AM to 04:00 PM.


We have a choice of three places where we can spend the night before or after the visit to Mount Nebo. We can either go to the city of Madaba (closest and if we do not have our own car, we should go here), look for accommodation near the Dead Sea, or drove a bit further, to the Jordanian capital - city of Amman.


Mount Nebo (Arabic: Jabal Nībū) is not the best of tourist attractions and interesting places in Jordan (it is worth reading: Ancient City of Petra and Wadi Rum Desert), but it has its enormous charm and historical or religious sentimentality, so if we want to stay in this country for a few days, it's definitely worth coming here and admiring the amazing views that Moses was looking at so long ago, ending his life here.

Wojciech Kuźma

Hey there! My name is Wojtek and I am very happy that you came to my travel blog. I've been traveling the world for a few good years now and I still want more.

On my website I describe the adventures that have happened to me, you will also find here a collection of valuable tips for tourists and travelers. If you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and read some more!

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