Machaerus is a hilltop fortress — purportedly the palace of Herod, King of Judea, during Jesus’s lifetime. This would have been where Salomé danced for Herod’s son, Herod Antipas, and where John the Baptist was later beheaded. Standing on this hill, visitors can see stunning views of the Dead Sea and the West Bank.


At this hilltop fortified palace overlooking,was life of Jesus Christ. Herod imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist after Salome’s fateful dance” Matthew 14:3-11. Many religious and historic stories are believed to have occurred in present day Jordan and one of these places is Machaerus, also known as “Mukawir.”

Machaerus is an archeological site and a fortified palace that is located on the top of a hill overlooking Jordan’s Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. The historic area of Machaerus is believed to be the place where the story of John the Baptist’s imprisonment and execution occurred. Machaerus also became one of Jordan’s main pilgrimage sites that were designated by the Vatican following Pope John Paul II visit to the kingdom in the year 2000.

Bible verse Matthew:14 discusses John the Baptist’s imprisonment as it states: “Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” The verse continues by stating: “The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison.”

Machaerus was first built by the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus as a fortress. It was later developed and rebuilt by King Herod the Great in 30BC. While little remains of Machaerus today, it is still an extremely interesting place to visit. A large part of the ancient castle as well as a courtyard, mosaics, and a bath that were part of the palace are still present, providing visitors with an opportunity to walk around and explore.


Machaerus was also the scene of a Roman siege during the first Jewish revolt against Rome. The site is easily reached by car from Madaba.

Mukawir is also one of the designated pilgrimage sites for the year 2000. The top of Mountain of Mukawir overlooks a breathtaking view of the Dead Sea. The summit can be reached after climbing a winding staircase up the mountain.

DID YOU KNOW? Herod Antipas became governor of Machaerus after marrying a Nabataean princess, believed to be the daughter of King Aretus IV (9BC – 40AD), in order to cement a Herodian-Nabataean alliance. However, he also married his sister-in-law, Herodia – a relationship that was strongly opposed by John the Baptist. As a result, Herod imprisoned and beheaded John at Machaerus (Mark 6: 14-29). The forces of King Aretus later defeated Herod Antipas’ army in 36 AD. This was subsequently interpreted by many as divine retribution for the death of John the Baptist.