By Stefan Szepesi
After a day of walking across the ruins of Qebla and the forests of Al Ayoun, the village of Beit Idis in northern Jordan is our stop for the night. One claim to fame of Beit Idis is that nothing less than the Jesus Cave is located in the village. The cave allegedly sheltered Jesus and his followers when fleeing from Herod’s soldiers, but the old prayer tree standing at its edge is our only witness to that event and it keeps remarkably silent. Walking from the Jesus Cave to Pella last spring we met the caretaker of the site, Adnan Megdadi. Adnan holds on to the key of the Jesus Cave which he unlocks whenever visitors arrive.
A few months after first meeting Adnan, he now hosts us for the first time, helping us to fill an important lodging gap on our 5-day route between Ajloun and the Ziglab Dam in the Jordan Valley. Um Mustafa –Adnan’s wife- serves us a simple and nutritious meal on his rooftop high-up in the village. We eat, talk, smoke hookah, gaze at the stars and test our basic Arabic vocabulary with their children: the little boy Mustafa and his three big sisters Dala, Dalia and Dunia –pretty names but not easy on my memory. We then descend one floor to sleep in a room that only has a large carpet on the floor, one light bulb on the ceiling, and with mattresses pulled in for us. As we are three men, there is no need to open the second room in the house. Both rooms were actually built to reserve a space for the next man to marry in Adnan’s extended family.
A typical challenge on the path: down the road of village life in Beit Idis, we may have to look out for a new homestay with our local partners in the Ajloun region. Until that time, I’m glad Adnan is opening both the cave and his home to travellers.