TALL EL-HAMMAM SITE, Jordan -- Dennis Addington, a retired California construction worker with a bad back, splurged this winter on his first foreign vacation. He spent $5,000 to dig himself into a deep hole. "It's the most fun I've ever had," he said, crouching 12 feet down in a pit more than 7,000 miles from home.
Mr. Addington and scores of others paid good money to come to Jordan and get to the bottom of something seriously bad: the world's most infamous city of sin.
They're looking for Sodom, a place so wicked that, according to Scripture, God obliterated it and sister settlement Gomorrah in a cataclysm of "brimstone and fire." Its sinfulness is one of the few things Jews, Christians and Muslims agree on. The Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Quran all slam Sodom.
"This is ground zero for wickedness," says Steven Collins, a New Mexico college professor who is leading this archaeological dig for the long-vanished -- and, say skeptics, fictional -- city of vice. A devout Christian, he believes the place will one day make "a great tourist destination with a great big sign, 'Welcome to Sodom,' perhaps in pink neon."
Digging for Sin City, Christians Toil In Jordan Desert (WSJ, February 24, 2007)
Memo to sin-seeking tourists: New York City is above-ground and served by all major airlines.
However, I do want me one of these T-shirts:
After years of discussion, [Collins] got permission to dig from Jordan's Department of Antiquities. In December 2005, work started with a few holes and the printing of T-shirts bearing the motto: "What Happens in Sodom, Stays in Sodom" -- a play on an advertising slogan for Las Vegas, often reviled as the modern Sodom and Gomorrah.