Madaba – City of Mosaics

Hi! I am back on the road and this time I have landed in Jordan. Of course my first stop was Amman international airport, a very modern one. No picture because I was too stressed looking for my contact to pick up my booked rental car  at 10:30pm. When he didn’t show up I ended up finding  the last car available at the airport (a huge Toyota Camry, my little hands can hardly reach the wheel) before heading to Madaba for my first night. It was very dark and there were no road signs, but being a very clever teddy bear, I had spent the waiting time at the airport buying a Jordanian sim car and got to my destination with the help of Google maps. Madaba is located 30 kilometres south of Amman on the King’s highway and the Mosaic City Hotel will be my home for the next two days.

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Madaba is well known for its mosaics and its reputation goes back to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman  times. Mentioned several times in the bible, the city is not short of churches. The walk proposed by the well popular LP guide book took me from Saint George’s orthodox church which prides itself on possessing an ancient mosaic map of Palestine (560 AD) to the church of the 12 Apostles, visiting local shops on my way. But the highlight  in my humble opinion is the Virgin Mary Church. The mosaics there are amazing and still in very good condition even though some dated back from the 1st century AD.

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The central mosaic with its geometric forms shows where the Byzantine Church of the Virgin Mary once stood. All that stands today are a columns and this mosaic which lies on the top of earlier Roman construction.  Just next to the church, were the ruins of a Roman private house with one of the most magnificent mosaics I saw today depicting representation of the four seasons at each corner, a Greek tragedy of Phaedra and Hippolytus, the figure of Adonis and a topless Aphrodite (amazing how this one managed to survive), while the top left represents three women respectively symbolising Rome, Gregoria (Istanbul) and Madaba. In Byzantine it was often the case that important cities would be represented as women.

 

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Outside along the church, stands the remain of the Roman road which connected with the city to Jerusalem.

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My little walk took me to church of the Beheading of John the Baptist (cheerful name!). It is a relatively recent church which offers a view over the city.  I was a very brave teddy bear, but despite my little legs I managed to climb up to the top. The challenge was to navigate the steep steps and the narrow staircase which had bell-cords running through it. Once on the top the height was scary for someone little like me.

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At the end of the day, I felt that I deserved to try Jordanian wine and a mandi (traditional Jordan meal). It was ok but maybe not worth the extra effort to bring any back home. Jordan is an Islamic country but pretty tolerant to the other monotheist religions. The locals are very nice and friendly and welcome foreign people (and teddy bears).  I think that I have landed in a nice peaceful part of the world which is pretty amazing if we remember that Jordan share borders with Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon………..

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