Leaving the cosmopolitan Israel, we headed back to Jordan via the King Hussein (or Allenby Bridge) border crossing. It’s a curvy road from the shores of the Dead Sea to Madaba, and there was not one safety rail on a bend that wasn’t smashed.
We dropped our bags at our hotel (the same Mosaic City Hotel from our journey only a few days ago), gathered our thoughts and set out with our guide books to orient ourselves to the city. Had also read that it might be a good place to purchase a carpet, without the higher prices of the capital of Amman or other tourist spots.
Fairly close to our hotel was the St George’s Church, also known as the Mosaic Map Church because set in its floor are the remains of a mosaic map of the holy land, which is surprisingly accurate (I say ‘surprisingly’ because it is an illustrated map, not just a geographical one). This map of the Middle East contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land (6th century AD). We were very fortunate to have the place to ourselves (bar one other tourist) for 10 minutes before two large tour groups came in. Well timed.
Everything is close by in this town, so when we saw Carpet City not far from the church, we thought we’d check it out. Unfortunately, we were simply not inspired by anything we saw. We couldn’t picture any of the carpets in our house, lovely as they were. So we thanked them for their time and left.
Madaba is known for its Archaeological Parks and this country is doing all it can to preserve these important historical beauties. The first park we visited (which was technically the second one if we were doing them in order) included the Burnt Palace and the Martyr Church. These mosaics are yet to be restored, but they are in situ, and you can still imagine how striking they would’ve once been.
At the end of what was once the church, there was a door into a mosaic workshop and shop. We entered and spent some time chatting to the owner. I’m afraid I got his hopes up by my asking lots of questions about the work and the prices. To be honest, I loved the ‘Tree of Life’ fine mosaic work (which was done with smaller mosaics, so the detail was delicate and gorgeous), especially the round table tops that would be perfect on a terrace. But they were 500, 700 and 1,000 JOD, and as much as I loved them, I simply didn’t want to pay a minimum of $1,000 AUD for one. So we had to let that go.
We continued our exploration (if slightly ‘out of order’) by moving on to the first archaeological park, the entry of which was covered by our Jordan Pass – the first venue we visited assumed we had purchased our ticket at park number one. This site was much more rewarding as most of the mosaics had been cleaned, repaired and restored, surprisingly vivid in their colour.
Just like in other parts of this country, there were what seemed to be an inordinate number of barber shops – all for men, of course; women don’t seem to attend to these matters in public. In Jordan, women’s hair is covered. And if a western woman were to go out with wet hair, it would be considered wanton behaviour.
Our final full day in Jordan was spent window shopping and wandering down previously unexplored streets. It was lovely to just be and savour the relaxation before long flights home. Most people wouldn’t bother to stay in this town, only doing a day trip from Amman to see the mosaics. But with the airport fairly equidistant between Madaba and the capital, it’s worth a night or two to see what this part of Jordan has to offer. One thing is the same here as in the rest of the country, though – the friendliness of its people.
Accommodation: Mosaic City Hotel