Within the Madaba Archaeological Park lies a section of the Roman Cardo Maximus. In Roman times, this was the main thoroughfare through the town of Madaba and it was probably a colonnaded road, as was customary in the cities of the Roman east (similar to but perhaps smaller than those found in Jerash, Apamea, and Palmyra). A lone half column stands on the side, either from the colonnade or a Temple that overlooked the Cardo. The stone paving of the road has survived astonishingly intact, as though it was laid only recently. A shorter continuation of the Cardo Maximus can be found in the small archaeological site of the Burnt Palace.
One of several churches in Madaba serving various sects, the Greek Orthodox Basilica of St George is the most important due to the ancient mosaic floor it hosts. The floor, which dates from the second half of the 6th century AD and belonged to a Byzantine-period church, was discovered by accident during the construction of the church in 1884. It is perhaps the most important mosaic floor ever discovered because of its religious and historical significance. Though far from complete, the floor is a rather detailed and accurate map of holy sites in the Near East, extending from Egypt to Lebanon. Since its discovery, it has aided historians in piecing together some facts and archaeologists in making new discoveries. Naturally, St George's Basilica is the most important tourist site in Madaba, which makes the interior of the church rather crowded at all times.
For detailed photos of the map, take a look at the travelogue: "Mosaics of the Basilica of St George."
Although there is little to see beyond the churches, mosaics, and museum in Madaba, the town is still a pleasant place for a stroll. The main streets contain numerous shops, many of which serve local needs, while a few others cater to visitors by selling mosaics and other souvenirs. The town has conserved some beautiful late 19th century stone architecture, probably built using recycled Roman or Byzantine materials, some of which have been turned into businesses. A good example is Haret Jdoudna, the restaurant/shop, and the Madaba Visitor Centre.
Visible from afar, this red tiled roof and spire belong to the largest church in Madaba, the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. It is a Latin church (i.e., Roman Catholic) built in the late 19th century on top of the highest hill in Madaba. Due to time constraints, I was unable to visit the cathedral, but was able to take the attached photo from a distance, but hope to be able to visit it if/when I return to Madaba.
Discovered among other ruins at the nearby site of ancient Machaerus (now known as Mukawir), this section of a mosaic floor is the oldest thus far discovered in Jordan. It belonged to the Roman Baths of Machaerus, which were built in the 1st century BC during the time of Herod the Great. This piece is now on display at the Madaba Archaeological Park, with other mosaics discovered in Madaba.
One of the highlights of the visit to Madaba is this small Archaeological Park-Museum in the heart of town. It contains archaeological finds from the Roman to the Abbasid periods, including the exquisite mosaics of the so-called Hippolytus Hall and those of the Church of the Virgin. Different aspects of the Archaeological Park are described separately on this page.
For more photos, take a look at the travelogue: "Mosaics of Hippolytus Hall & Church of the Virgin."
Of a recent construction, this beauty is the Grand Mosque of Madaba. It was clearly inspired by Ottoman architecture and stands proud in a town with numerous churches and a glorious Christian past. It is a testament to the religious tolerance between Christian and Moslem communities in Jordan.
Located within the Madaba Archaeological Park, the ruins of the Church of the Virgin and Hippolytus Hall contain the most impressive mosaics in Madaba. They were discovered in 1982 along with the rest of the ruins in the surrounding area, which is now the museum-park. Originally, a Roman pagan temple occupied the site, but in the early 6th century a mansion was built over the ruins of the temple. The mansion's floors were decorated with the most exquisite mosaics depicting the legends of Hippolytus and Phaedra, and Aphrodite and Adonis, hence the name "Hippolytus Hall." Large sections of these mosaics have survived intact beneath the foundation of later construction. Around 600 AD, a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built over the ruins of the palace covering the Hippolytus mosaics in the process. The Church, which had a centralised plan, was restored in 767 AD, after the great earthquake which destroyed most of Jordan. During this restoration, which occurred under the Abbasid Caliphate, the surviving mosaic floor was created. This mosaic is significant for two reasons, it is one of the few surviving examples of Christian art under the Islamic caliphate, and it occurred during the Iconoclastic period and is thus devoid of any human figures.
For more detailed photos, take a look at the travelogue: "Mosaics of Hippolytus Hall & Church of the Virgin."
This small archaeological site in the centre of town is open to visitors free of charge. It contains the continuation of the Roman Cardo Maximus that extends into the Madaba Archaeological Park as well as the ruins of the 6th century AD Martyrs Church. More important here are the mosaic floors of a 6th century palace that was destroyed in a fire in the aftermath of the 749 AD earthquake. The mosaics floors are divided into three wings of the palace (north, east, and west) and contain beautiful hunting scenes, and floral and animal motifs.
For more detailed photos, take a look at the travelogue: "Mosaics of the Burnt Palace."
This church-like early 20th century structure was built to protect the mosaics discovered by chance at this site in 1902. They belonged to a Byzantine-period church built in 578 AD, which was named the Church of the Apostles because of a mosaic with an inscription mentioning the Twelve Apostles. The main mosaic floor contains a central medallion with Thalassa, the female representation of the sea, surrounded by bird and floral motifs. The mosaics of the two side chapels depict animals and plants, and contain the Apostles' inscription.
For more photos, take a look at the travelogue: "Mosaics of the Church of the Apostles."
Right in the centre of Madaba is its most important historical artefact: the Map of Madaba. Contained within the walls of the St. George's Church, this Byzantine map century gives an incredibly accurate picture of the Holy Land in the 6th century. The most dominant feature of the map is the city of Jerusalem, and after visiting there and looking back at my photographs of this mosaic, I immediately recognised places I'd visited in the Old City, like Damascus Gate and the Cardo.
The mosaic map, which contains over two million pieces of coloured stone, was only discovered at the end of the 19th century, just over a hundred years ago. More mosaic maps can be seen in the Church of the Virgin and the Apostles and the Archaeological Museum, but this is the most important one.
The Greek Orthodox church at Madaba has the most amazing mosaic floor (well remnants of) detailing the religious world at the time it was laid. It is a true work of art and well worth a visit.
Also the Icons and art work on display are worth seeing as well
The Madaba Mosaic Map, a unique piece of art, dating to 6th cent. A.D., was designed as a decoration for the pavement of a church built during the reign of emperor Justinian. The current map has been rediscovered during the construction of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George in 1896. This discovery brought Madaba, at the time a small dusty village in the plateau of Moab south of Amman, to international fame.
The mosaic represents the biblical land from Egypt to Lebanon, including Sinai, Israel, Palestine, and Transjordan. It is considered to be one of the best and most detailed topographical representations of the Biblical Lands. Among the best preserved parts are a detailed depiction of the city of Jerusalem, the Jordan River and its valleys, two sailing boats with deformed sailors (because of their nudity?) carrying salt from the Dead Sea, the Nile Delta, etc. For a very detailed info on the map and its biblical sites, see this site .
The Golden Dome Mosque in central Madaba isvisible from almost everywhere. I had a chance to visit the mosque - and were welcomed by many friendly locals. The mosque is quite modern. It looks very nice at night.
Remember to take your shoes off, and no photography is allowed inside this mosque.
There are several shops in Madaba which you can visit where local handicrafts are made. This is agood opputunity to buy directly from them, and you know what you buy is authentic. A leaflet is available with all these shops you can visit. Most of them are in the central are of the town.