Madaba, Jordan: Meander Over to the Mosaic Masterpieces

Gary Greer 5/5/2020
Arab Culture

Traveling down the 5,000-year-old King’s Highway out of Amman, at just around 30 kilometers (18 ½ miles) you’ll enter one of the most unforgettable places in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – the ancient city of Madaba, also known as the “City of Mosaics.” 

The city earned its nickname because of its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics. The most notable of which is the 6th century Madaba Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. It contains over two million pieces of brightly colored stones. It’s hard to imagine how detailed the mosaic can depicting the mountains, valleys, villages and towns all the way to the Nile Delta in such detail.

Where is it located?

The Madaba Map is located to the northwest of Madaba’s city center in the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George. Saint George was built over a century ago in 1896 on top of a Byzantine church. The latter was built much earlier in the 6th century. Today, the map covers the entire floor of the church, about one quarter of its original 94 square meters.

You can find other mosaic masterworks. These include a general abundance of flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts. Also, they depict scenes from mythology and everyday life such as hunting, fishing and farming in both the Church of the Virgin and the Apostles and the Madaba Archaeological Park and Museum. Additionally, hundreds of other mosaics from as early as the 5th century can be found in churches and homes throughout Madaba.

Nearby the Church of the Virgin you can find the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration. It is operating under the kind patronage of the Ministry of Tourism. The institute trains artisans in the art of making, repairing and restoring mosaics. Cool fact, it is the only project of its kind in the Middle East.

What else can you visit?

Of course, a Madaba tour would not be complete without a visit to the famous Mount Nebo. The mountain is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the place where Moses was shown the Promised Land. Even from its summit today, Mount Nebo offers splendid panoramic views of the land to the north. On clear days you can see the Jordan River Valley and the Palestinian city of Jericho. On very clears days you can even see the Palestinian capital of East Jerusalem.

Madaba has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate with most of its annual rain (346 mm / 13.62 in) falling in winter. The average annual temperature in Madaba is 16.4 °C (61.5 °F). This makes visiting the city any time of the year a great idea.

In conclusion, if you’d like to visit Madaba and maybe learn to speak Arabic to talk to the locals of the “City of Mosaics”, research shows that the best way to learn Arabic is through the use of Arabic learning apps like the Kaleela Arabic learning app. Visit our website and find out how you can learn Levantine Arabic or any of the other Arabic dialects spoken throughout the region by downloading the Kaleela Arabic learning app to your IOS or Android mobile device today.