Madaba lies approximately one hour from Amman and is most famous for its mosaics. You might have heard of the 6th century Madaba Map which is a large mosaic in the Byzantine Church of Saint George displaying the Holy Land.
But this is not the reason why I have convinced my boyfriend to stop in Madaba for a few days. On the contrary, I am more into softer fabrics and after discovering that Madaba is also a carpet city I have become deadset on finding myself a magic carpet.
I have grown up in a house with oriental rugs and I love the earthy tones of such carpets. In my stepfathers summerhouse there used to be a particular massive kelim carpet which was all eroded from decades of use. I love it. To me it is what binds everything else together.
So discovering that Madaba is famous for its kelim carpets, I just had to go!
After a few days in Madaba I finally ended up buying a carpet. I ended up not with a Madaba carpet but one from Iran, and I am absolutely certain that the tea-drinking brothers at Carpet City deceived me gruesomely. However, I am absolutely ecstatic and can’t wait to bring it home. My poor boyfriend in return has had the good fortune to have to carry it;-)
But before I start gushing out about my new carpet, maybe we should return to Madaba and the mosaics.
Madaba and the mosaics
Madaba is an ancient city which is mentioned a few times in the bible and which can boast of a Christian community that traces back to somewhere around the 5th century. In the proximity of Madaba lies a long list of biblical places such as Mount Nebo, where Moses died and was buried, and Bethany at the Jordan River, where John the Baptist got his nickname.
The city is full of ancient mosaics which date between the 1st and 7th century AD. I particularly enjoyed the many beautiful mosaics of The Archaeological Park.
Furthermore, approximately one third of the population is Christian under the Greek Orthodox Christianity making this a very different city to explore than Aqaba and Wadi Musa. All the tourist info we have read about Madaba has told us about the friendly and tolerant people of Madaba. I have only ever met friendly people in Jordan so far, but I agree with the brochures that Madaba has a certain relaxed atmosphere which makes it a pleasant place to stay for a few days.
The guy who picked us up in Wadi Musa and brought us here through Kerak and Wadi Mujib has also been our designated driver for visiting some of the surrounding sites. Thus, we have walked in the footsteps of Moses climbing (though with car) Mount Nebo and wadded in the muddy waters of Bethany as Jesus once did and as several congregations on the Israeli site seem to do every day.
The muddy waters of the Jordan River
Bethany was by all means an extremely weird experience. Neither of us are religious and therefore ones or twice I had to ask myself why we were walking through a desert to a dried up dirty river in 42°C and no coverage.
The Jordan River creates the natural border between Israel and Jordan and it is only a few meters wide at Bethany. Thus, several soldiers on each side stand ready in case of something happening.
On the Israeli side it seems they have build a large complex for visitors, and while we were on the bare and untouched Jordanian side we saw massive progressions of Orthodox and Catholic Christians as well as extravagant and over-emotional baptisms on the Israeli side.
It was as if we were watching a movie standing so close to these people, who appeared so devout to their Lord the Saviour in the way they were waving their arms, crying and embracing the experience as of being lowered into the disgusting and probably rather poisonous water.
But the weirdest part must have been the walk to and from. As mentioned the Israeli have built some sort of complex, but on the Jordanian site there is nothing but dry heat and desert. If you have ever watched Babel (2006) then you might remember the nanny and children’s crazy way through the borderland between Mexico and the US. Well this was just like it, except we didn’t end up getting deported.
Back in Madaba
I ended up feeling rather dizzy from our trip due to the heavy sun. Fortunately, our hotel had just what we needed to get over biblical tour and we ended up enjoying the pool while the owners wife made us burgers.
They call them Chicken Hamburgers here which I found exceedingly funny, since there is absolutely no ham in them. I know the name comes from Hamburg, but in Denmark we would always name it a chicken burger to clarify the lack of ham.
Maybe we are the silly ones but it seriously made me laugh when I had to order chicken hamburgers in a region where ham is pretty much forbidden. I really should get out of the sun.
We will be heading to Amman next where we are to stay with my friend and her husband. I am looking forward to getting to the end of our journey, not because it hasn’t been absolutely amazing, but because I need to return home and digest all the things we have experienced and seen.
See you in Amman,