On the same day as our trip to Mount Nebo (see previous post), we also visited Madaba. This market town is about an hour’s drive on the bus from Amman, and is most well-known for its Byzantine-era mosaics. It was abandoned after a devastating earthquake in AD 747, and the mosaics were only discovered in the late 19th century.
After the bus drive from Amman, on which I read William Dalrymple’s In Xanadu (which I would definitely recommend, if only to make you wish you were that knowledgeable aged 22), we came to our first mosaic at the Church of the Apostles. The girl in the centre is Thalassa, a personification of the sea, where she is surrounded by sea life. The corners of the mosaic are decorated with animals, birds and flowers.
Next we found the most famous Madaba mosaic at St George’s Church. This mosaic represents a map, depicting all the major biblical sites in the Middle East. In fact, it is the oldest map of Palestine in existence.
We then proceeded to get very lost. However, we did meet these sweet little boys, who asked to have their picture taken.
The town also had a lovely Italian church, the Shrine to the Beheading of John the Baptist. We scaled the belfry, banging our heads on the massive bells and climbing up steep metal ladders, and eventually reached the top of the tower. The view was pretty spectacular.
The view from the top of the tower.
I’ll keep this post fairly short, as this evening we are celebrating fellow intern Mark’s birthday at Jafra (my favourite restaurant in Amman). Tomorrow, assuming our sketchy internet is working, I hope to put up the Jerash photos. Expect a mammoth post.