Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Madaba the Mosaic City of Jordan



Completed Mosaic panel at the work shop displaying Jesus in company of children
Completed Mosaic panel at the work shop displaying Jesus in company of children

I have learned through friends while in Jordan I shouldn't miss visiting Madaba the Mosaic city and the Petra. Well, now I am in Madaba and first leg our journey to the holy land start from here. The city lies in the east bank of river Jordan. Madaba is well known for its Byzantine mosaic art. It has a long history, according to the bible at the time of the Exodus it was an Amorite town close to Moab border (Numbers 21:30; Joshua 13:9) Madaba was then occupied by Israelite and later it was frequently changed hands. The city was ruined by war and natural calamities over thousands of years. 


An out standing wall hanging work of Mosaic craft
An out standing wall hanging work of Mosaic craft

Later during 5th century when Christians started occupying the city they excavated early mosaics remnants from the ruins. It was then understood mosaics were lavishly used on the building floors and walls as decoration during the time. Making of mosaic there fore was an ancient art and existed in Madaba from the time immemorial.   

Social set up of Jordan

Jordanians live in a relatively secular society. I have quite a few Jordanian Muslim friends, majority of them identify them selves as liberals. They consider religious practices should be a private matter that must be differentiated from social and political life. Majority of Jordanian population is Sunny Muslims, though there are few other minorities and Christians forms a sizable percentage. Unlike other states they live in harmony in the neighborhood with mutual respect and I was given to understanding they even marry inter religion particularly between Muslims and Christians.


Young olive trees flowered in Madaba
Young olive trees flowered in Madaba
Jordanian Olives 

Olive is easily grown in Jordan and they have a saying Olive trees are planted for the children just as the ancestors did for the present generation. 
Mosaic map of Holy land on the cathedral floor
Mosaic map of Holy land on the cathedral floor

Olive trees seldom dies easily, there are very many trees in Jordan ages one thousand years and above. The oldest trees I have seen are the olives of Gethsemane garden. Older the trees better is the quality they say because best quality olives and oil come from the trees 40 years old and above.

Mosaic Map of Madaba

A large 6th century Byzantine-era mosaic map of Holy land was discovered accidentally in 1897 while renovating the old church for Greek Orthodox Christians. The map measuring about 25 square meter (according to church authorities the present panel is only one fourth of the original which was of 94 square meters in size) is a unique piece of art. 

It represents a topographical view of the biblical land from Egypt to Lebanon, including Sinai, Palestine and Jordan keeping Jerusalem as the center of attraction of the map. The mosaic map still serves as floor of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Madaba which is closely situated to the Madaba visitors center.

Mosaic workshops of Madaba
Resurrection of Jesus, my favorite mosaic panel
Resurrection of Jesus,
my favorite mosaic panel


We then visited a mosaic workshop where the artisans painstakingly add mosaic stones one after other to a sketched outline. These multicolored stones are expensive and they come mostly from Petra. The artisans cut the stones with cutting pliers and paste them rough side up on to the cotton. These are then set in concrete and flipped over so that smooth surface faces up. The artisans have undergone at least three year training on how to set these panels. 


Mosaic school of Madaba

Madaba known as the city of mosaics, runs a regular Mosaic school, started by the Italians for training local Jordanians to restore ancient mosaics found in Jordan as well as to train them in traditional and computer aided modern methods of mosaic production.


Mosaic pottery on display
Mosaic pottery on display

The students of the school are able to take university bachelor degree in archaeology with a two years extended study (lately I am given to understanding this opportunity is withheld for the time being, interested personnel are advised to contact school directly). We have been able to visit one of their workshops and watch their exquisite skill of craftsmanship in mosaic making. They produce mosaic panels smaller to very large ones and you can buy them at the workshop or at so many souvenir shops found in Madaba if you do not consider the cost. 


Blue wall hanging plates on display - Hand painted
Blue wall hanging plates on display - Hand painted

Foods of Jordan

If you do not leave Jordan heavier, there is something wrong with you, such irresistible is their food. Multi cuisine extravaganza is the spread; you really cannot be bothered if you are a weight watcher. Hummus, Falafel, Tabouleh, Mautabel, Kofta, Mixed grill are some of my favorites. 


Grilled mixed meat
Grilled mixed meat
A green drink of lime in mint is refreshing. Wine is also available in plenty. Well, thinking of fruits, they are in abundance. We eat three meals in Jordan, dinner and breakfast at Hotel Tulip where we stayed located close to Queen Alia International Airport and the lunch of course in Madaba itself. No words to explain the quality of these foods. 


The green drink - lime in mint, an internet picture
The green drink - lime in mint,
an internet picture

Sorry, I am an ardent lover of Jordanian,Turkish and Lebanon foods; habit formed because of my long stay in gulf countries. Do not leave Jordan with out picking few packets of authentic Jordanian sweets like Kunafa, Baklava etc for the home. 


Hummus - olive oil and lime in chikpeas paste, an internet picture
Hummus - olive oil and lime in chickpeas paste,
an internet picture


Madaba is a must see place while in Jordan and it lies close to Mount Nebo, a place of great religious significance from where Moses first glimpsed the promised land and is said to be his final resting place although it is controversial.   

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