Sunday, 31 January 2010

Visit to Madaba & Mount Nebo

This Friday we decided to venture out of Amman and took the direction of Madaba, a larger city located a 30-40 minutes drive south of the capital. Not wanting to try our luck again we took a GPS with us and it was a good idea! Not that difficult to get to Madaba, but it was useful to Mount Nebo and back as there are not so many signs showing the direction – seems to be a trend! There are quite a few things to see in this city, more than what we saw… but a tired Bobs – now working a 6 day week – and a 6 months old Bibs will give us the occasion to get back to this interesting city. Let’s not forget that Madaba is one of the oldest settled places in Jordan.It is known as the “Mosaic City”; the mosaics are dating from between 500 to 800AD – many more are still being found.

So we headed for the Visitor Centre in Madaba – it is located in the middle of the city and within walking distance of all the main attractions (except the Church of the Apostles, located a little bit further out). At the centre we could easily park our car (ok it was Friday, don’t know how it is in the week) and we got a brochure with a map of the city which explains briefly what there is to see at each site – we didn’t use it though , and I have just seen there was stuff we missed! Well tourism in Jordan is for the adventurous – even at sites like The Archaeological Park – there are not so many signs and you easily miss some things – but then there are areas closed to the public as well for renovation, except it doesn’t always tell!

The first thing as you exit the Visitor Centre is The Mosaic School which is open for the public – we didn’t get to visit it as it was Friday – so that’s for the next trip. It is the only project as such in the Middle East. Next to it is located The Archaeological Park – where there are loads of very interesting mosaics.
“God is the only Creator”… And sadly in AD 726 Emperor Leo forbid by decree the use of people and animals in “images”, so most of the mosaics are badly defaced. Those which have survived were the ones covered by sand or other mosaics (as the ones you can see below).
IMG_8656The Church of the Virgin – Archaeological Park
  It was built above a Roman monument at the end of the 6th century.
This well preserved mosaic dates to AD 767 – the medallion reads:
“If you want to look at Mary, Virginal Mother of God, and to Christ whom she generated, Universal King, only Son of the only God, purify (your) mind, flesh and works! May you purify with (your) prayers the people of God.”
It is then a short walk through a touristy street to the Greek Orthodox Church of St George. 
200_MadabaChurch031110 St George Church – view from the Street
The Church is also known as the Church of the Map – it is a modern church built in the late 19th century over a ruined Byzantine church from the time of Justinian (527-565). The mosaic map, belonging to the foundation of the old church, is the oldest existing map of Palestine.
The mosaic represented the biblical land from Egypt to Lebanon, inc Sinai, Israel, Palestine and Transjordan. It is greatly deteriorated and many sections are missing. The original map was about 94 square meters but only 25 have been preserved. There are 157 captions written in Greek and most of the cities have been identified.
The central focus of  the map is Jerusalem, one of the pieces which remains nearly intact. The Holy City is captioned in red letters:“Hagia Polis Ierousa…” Dominating the city is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (upside down) built by the Emperor Constantine – showing the Martyrion Basilica, the courtyard containing the Rock of the Calvary and the dome covering the Tomb of Jesus.
To finish our little visit in Madaba, we ate at the Haret Jdoudna Restaurant – it was a nice lunch, with typical Jordanian food. It is apparently famous – If you want to sit outside, better call and reserve a table! (Their site is still under construction at the time I am writing this).
DSC00502Our Lunch! 
There are more things to visit, but we continued our journey to Mount Nebo. It is a short drive from Madaba (10km), and suddenly you have the most amazing view…
Mount Nebo has been inhabited since antiquity. However it is of course the biblical event that has made the mountain famous. “Then Moses went up from the lowlands of Moab to Mount Nebo (…), and the Lord showed him the Whole Land (…)” Book of Deuteronomy 34. It is said that It is on this Mount that Moses is buried as well, but the location remains unknown.
DSC00520On the platform at the summit is a modern sculpture by an Italian artist representing Moses' staff and Jesus' words in John 3: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
(it is a view from the side as there are renovation works going on at the moment and the site is partially closed, as was the Byzantine Church).
It is a very interesting site, many pilgrims and tourists come to the Mount. It is one the most important Christian site. It is quite a sensation to stand on this mountain and looking out over the promised land

One last picture to finish this posting... a random roundabout in Madaba...

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