Madaba

Overview

Introduction

The prime attractions of Madaba, Jordan—located on the King's Highway, 20 mi/30 km southwest of Amman—are its many sixth-century Byzantine mosaics.

The most famous and most impressive of these mosaics is the enormous sixth-century map of Palestine and Egypt that is located in St. George's Greek Orthodox Church.

A few blocks from the church is the Madaba Archaeological Museum, which contains the remains of several Byzantine churches, including some wonderful mosaics found there and in other parts of the region, as well as other ancient artifacts. The nearby mosaic school was established to teach the restoration of these rare artworks.

Residents of Madaba are reclaiming their once-endangered heritage thanks to efforts, aided by USAID, such as the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration. The area offers many shops for mosaics and other souvenirs. Cafes and restaurants also proliferate.

Madaba is a good base for exploring surrounding sights. You should definitely consider a jaunt to Mount Nebo—it offers an excellent view of the Jordan River Valley, the Dead Sea and (on clear days) Jerusalem. A sixth-century church marks the spot where Moses is said to have seen the Land of Canaan at the end of his life (he, too, enjoyed the view).

Other area attractions include Mukawir (20 mi/34 km southwest of Madaba) or Herod's Fortress, where Salome danced and John the Baptist was beheaded); the beautiful mosaics in the church at Siyagha; and more beautiful mosaics in Umm ar-Rasas.

Near Herod's Fortress is the Bani Hamadi Project, where Bedouin women continue an ancient tradition of making and working with simple looms.

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