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This remarkable town in Northwestern Jordan is a unique city where history speaks through the art and architecture that spans centuries. Madaba is the fifth largest town in Jordan and situated equidistant from the capital of Amman and the Western border of the Dead Sea. The town serves as a major tourist destination for its own ancient mosaics and architecture.
Nearby attractions are Mt. Nebo, the site of Moses Death and the Baptism site of Jesus on the Jordan River. Petra is and will always be Jordan’s main attraction just a couple hours away.
Many of the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad ruins and mosaics in town had been covered up and lost until 200 years ago. A cooperation between locals, archaeologists and priests allowed for the care and preservation of these treasures as large portions of the city were renovated for new construction. The end result are a series of well preserved ancient sites surrounded by modern housing, tourist shops and hotels and a city that goes on with day to day life.
Madaba is known as the city of Mosaics. This is not only because of the many ones created and rediscovered here, but because it actually has a university that teaches the art and restoration of mosaics. Many local shopkeepers are also familiar with the trade, they make their own to sell and they are quite beautiful. The most famous treasure of all is the Madaba Mosaic Map. This is a map
of the region ornately laid out across the floor of St. George’s Church. This map is a 6th century masterpiece made up of over 2 million colored stones. Apart from its aesthetic value, the map is a testament for scholars as to the ancient names and layouts of regions that are now gone. In many ways it is a treasure map of archeological locations. The church of the Virgin and Apostles contains many ancient mosaics on themes of nature, mythology and daily life. The Mosaic University, located just next to the impressive tourism center boasts many ancient mosaics on display as well as a fully preserved Roman street and square. One may also pay an entrance to the Archeological Park to see mosaics and ruins in the central district.
A rental car or operated tour buses are really the two best ways of getting around Jordan. The local bus system and walking are not practical options for tourists, even though Madaba’s two other sites are not too distant. There are many small, clean hotels spread around downtown Madaba. Mosaic City Hotel (Yarmouk St. Madaba 17110) is a good place to stay for its cleanliness, friendliness and home-style atmosphere.