Our recent pilgrimage to the Holy Lands was billed as “re-tracing the steps of the Magi”. Those who have read my book The Mystery of the Magi-the Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men will know that my theory is that they were Nabateans from the famous city of Petra in present day Jordan.
It turned out that re-tracing the steps of the wise men was not quite so easy as we thought–especially as there were forty of us on a bus.
Nevertheless we had planned to travel South from Petra to the border crossing at Aqaba, then back North through the Negev desert in Southern Israel to the city of Advat–the ruined Nabatean trading post which would have been a stopping place on their journey.
This was a cheat because the ancient trade route would have cut Northwest from Petra directly to Advat before continuing on to Gaza. The area now is a militarized zone and you can’t get through even if there were a road that a bus could travel on. So the route South to Aqaba was a the best we could do.
For complicated reasons we were unable to do even that. The border was closed for the Jewish New Year and we had to go back North to the crossing at the Allenby Bridge.
Over the last year a British film maker has been trying to get a documentary made about my book and he has discovered this article which recounts how a Jewish hiker has actually completed the ancient journey! Some of the ancient pathways have been turned into jeep tracks over the centuries, but much of the trail has disappeared into the desert.
These hikers re-discovered some of the ancient milestone markers so they knew they were on the right track.
How cool would it be to get some camels and horses and make the trek across the desert!
That’s exactly what the film maker would like to do. This would be such a great boost to get the news out there about the historicity of the Magi story, and it would be a great Indiana Jones type adventure. I’m up for it. If that hiker can do it on foot at the age of 86 I’m sure I could do it on horseback…
Maybe spare a prayer that we will overcome all the obstacles to get this film made. The BBC are interested and so are the folks at National Geographic.
If you haven’t read my book about the Magi you ought to. I know I’m biased, but I think it is a great read–a kind of detective story, and you’ll learn a lot about the history of the ancient world as you do.