Machaerus (also often seen as Makawer / Mukawir / Mukawir Castle / Qala’at Mukawir) lies in modern day Jordan. Now a hilltop ruin, with impressive views, it was once the fortress of Herod Antipas where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. It is located 75 km southwest of the capital city of Amman and 32 Km southwest of Madaba city. The castle ruins lie 700 meters above sea level and overlook the Dead Sea.
A brief History of Machareus
Machareus was founded first by the Hasmonean prince Alexander Jannaeus around 100 BC. The location was strategically chosen to enable Jannaeus to be near the border of the Arab Nabateans, and to control the road to the Dead Sea. The high vantage point was difficult to access and any invasion would be easy to spot well in advance.
Machareus was destroyed just 50 years later by Pompey’s general Gabinius.
When Herod the Great was appointed king of Judea by Emperor Augustus in 37 BC he rebuilt the fortress to be a military base. He built defensive fortresses, wall and water cisterns and a bath.
When Herod died in 4 BC, his kingdom was divided among his sons, Herod Antipas, Herod Archelaus and Philip the tetrarch. The palace was inherited by Herod Antipas and used as a resort.
Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist after Salome’s fateful dance.
It was destroyed by the Romans less than 100 years later.
What makes Makawer (Machaerus) a Biblical site?
Machaerus that it’s the palace where John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas when Salome the daughter of Herodia asked John the Baptist’s head on a platter.
Makawer in the Bible
According to the Gospels of Mark (6:14–29) and Matthew (14:1–12), Herod Antipas had imprisoned John the Baptist for condemning his marriage to Herodias, the divorced wife of his half brother Herod Philip (the marriage violated Mosaic Law), but Herod was afraid to have the popular prophet killed. After Salome danced before Herod and his guests at a festival, he promised to give her whatever she asked.” Ask whatever you want even if you ask half of my kingdom” Prompted by her mother, Herodias, who was infuriated by John’s condemnation of her marriage, the girl demanded the head of John the Baptist on a platter, and the unwilling Herod was forced by his oath to have John beheaded. Salome took the platter with John’s head and put it on her head and danced, then gave it to her mother.
Makawer Site Entrance Fees
The entrance to the site cost 3 JOD and it’s 20 minutes walking from the parking lot to the top of the hill to get into the remaining palace.
How to get to Makawer
To get to Makawer you need a taxi, tour or rental car.
To get there by taxi expect to pay around 60 JOD round trip. (ensure you negotiate the rate in advance). No public transportation goes there.
Rental cars are very common in Jordan and it is easy to rent a car for a day trip or for your entire time in Jordan. Get more info on driving in Jordan.
Enjoy a cup of tea or Arabic coffee in the tent at the visitor center after you finish your tour of the site.