MADABA, the city of mosaics, situated along the 5,000-year-old King’s Highway, is one of the most memorable places in the Holy Land. The city has a long history dating back to the book of Exodus when it was named as one of Moab’s Cities of the Plain. The town, later conquered by the Romans, was remodeled in the typical provincial style with colonnaded streets, temples, large cisterns and a town wall.
Madaba’s chief attraction can be found in the contemporary Greek Orthodox church of St. George. It is a wonderfully vivid sixth century Byzantine map showing Jerusalem and other holy sites. Painstakingly handcrafted using two million pieces of colored stone, the map originally measures a full 25metres by five metres. While this masterpiece is unrivalled, there are literally dozens of other mosaics dating from the sth through the zth century found throughout Madaba’s churches and buildings.
•Madaba Archaeological Museum
•Madaba Archaeological Park
•Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration
Umm Ar-Rasas (Ancient Mayfa’al
Umm Ar-Rasas is a town unique in its combination of different civilisations. This is exemplified in its Roman, Byzantine and Islamic heritage. Due to its unification of Roman style architecture and its embellishment by early local Christians, well over a hundred years after the beginning of Muslim rule, the town has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A must see in the ruins of Ancient Mayfa’a, is the large, perfectly preserved mosaic floor in the Church of St. Stephen. The mosaic floor, laid down in 718 AD portrays 15 major Holy Land cities both east and west of the River Jordan and is the perfect destination for the biblical history fan!
Mukawir, Mount Nebo
The Moses Memorial Church is a destination on every history or religious tourist’s list of must-see spots. The church, built on top of six tombs from different periods, boasts several mosaic remnants, the earliest of which is a panel with a braided cross.
One of the things in abundance in Jordan, besides hospitality and great food, is the amount of significant biblical sites. Mukawir is a great example of that as it was the location of events that greatly affected religious history. Situated about an hour away from Madaba on the picturesque King’s Highway, Mukawir once served as the hilltop stronghold of Herod the Great and later was the location where Herod Antipas ordered the beheading of John the Baptist after Salome’s fateful dance of the seven veils.
Mount Nebo, the most revered holy site in J ordan, was a place of pilgrimage for early Christians for a myriad of reasons. This is the site where Moses viewed the Holy Land and where he was believed to have been buried. Walk in his footsteps and witness religious history at this moving landmark.
The Serpentine Cross, standing just outside the sanctuary, is symbolic of the brass serpent taken by Moses into the desert and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
To preserve the archaeological heritage of the area the Franciscan Archeological Institute protects and maintains all sites at Mount Nebo and the nearby city of Madaba.
The Dead Sea
The therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea, combined with the Jordan Valley’s fertile land and warm climate, have attracted people to live, hunt, and farm in the area as early as the Stone Age. One of the world’s most amazing places, the Valley, is a dramatic, beautiful landscape, which at the Dead Sea, is over 410m (1,312 feet.) below sea level making it the lowest point on the face of the earth. While over 200 archaecological sites have been discovered, many more are still waiting to be fonnd. The area is full of biblically important sites as it is where God first spoke to man, where He gave His 10 Commandments to Moses, where Job suffered and was rewarded for his faith, and where Jacob wrestled with the angel of God. This is also the site of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah, the site of the story of Lot, and whre Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.
While this area has a lot of significance for Christians, there are also several key locations equal in importance for Muslim visitors as it hosts the tombs of several of the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) venerable companions and military leaders.
The ancient city of Petra is one of Jordan’s national treasures and by far its best known tourist attraction. Located about thee hours south of Amman. Petra is the legacy of the Babataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled in southern Jordan more than 2,000 years ago. Admired then for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels. Petra is now a UNESCO World Heritages Site and one of th enew Seven Wonders of the World. Inhabited by the Nabateans, Edomites and Romans, Petra brought together the knowledge and skill of these civilizations to create this world wonder. Caravans laden with incense, silks, spices and other exotic goods would rest at Petra. But their main wealth came from the fact that Petra was an important hub for the lucrative trade routes that linked China in the east with Rome in the west.
Trade caravans laden would break at Petra, which offered a plentiful supply of water and protection from marauders. In return for their hospitality, the Nabataeans imposed a tax on all goods that passed through the city and grew wealthy from the proceeds. Petra later flourished under Roman rule, and many Roman-style amendments were made to the city, including the enlargement of the theatre, paving of the colonnaded street, and a triumphal arch was built over the entrance to the Siq. When the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, visited the site in 131 AD, he named it after himself, Hadrian Petra.
Although abandoned after a series of devastating earthquakes and its loss of status, Petra was rediscovered by Swiss traveler, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab on August z znd 1812.
Besides As-Salt’s past as a successful and booming merchant town, the area is also significant in terms of religion. Among the shrines the town hosts is the shrine of Job, one of the earliest patriarchal figures in the Bible who overcame his suffering through his faith. The town also hosts the shrine of the prophet Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, as well as the tombs of Jacob’s two sons: Jad and Asher. Another must-see in the area is the Abu Jaber mansion, which is reputed to be the finest example of a 19th century merchant house in the region.
•As-Salt Archaeological Museum
•As-Salt Folklore Museum
•As-Salt Historical Museum (Abu faber House)
Still paved with the original stones – the ruts worn by chariots still visible – the 800 metres Cardo was the architectural spine and focal point of Jerash. An underground sewage system ran the full length of the Cardo with regular holes at the sides of the street to drain rainwater into the sewers.
Further up the Cardo Maximus, is the monumental and richly carved gateway of a second century Roman Temple of Dionysus. In the fouth century, the temple was rebuilt as a Byzantine church and is now referred to as the ‘Cathedral’. At the top of the stairs, against an outer East wall of the Cathedral is the Shrine of St. Mary, with a painted inscription to Mary and the archangels Michael and Gabriel.
The JerashArchaeological Museum is not to be missed as it houses a fascinating collection of artifacts including gold jewelry, coins, glass and – perhaps the most unusual- pottery theater tickets!
Umm Al-Iimal is located at the edge of the eastern basalt desert plain, along a secondary road close to the former junction of several ancient trade routes linking central Jordan with Syria and Iraq. The paucity of timber in the region led to an almost exclusive use of the hard basalt stones as building materials: door and window frames, sills, lintels, and sometimes even the doors themselves! The use of these stones also introduced a unique roofing system: corbel courses which consisted of long basalt slabs that lay across the rooms.
Among the most interesting structures to visit are the tall barracks with their little chapel, several large churches, the outlines of a Roman fort, and the remains of several town gates.
Pella, Umm Qays
Pella (Tabaqat Fahl)
In the foothills of the Jordan Valley, at exactly sea-level, Pella contains antiquities dating back to both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Together with excavated ruins from the Greco-Roman period, Pella offers visitors the opportunity to see the remains of a Chalcolithic settlement from the ath millennium BC, as well as evidence of Bronze and Iron Age walled cities, Byzantine churches, early Islamic residential quarters, and a small medieval mosque.
A lonely reminder of former Crusader glory, Showbak Castle is located less than an hour’s drive north of Petra. Once called “Le Krak de Montreal,” or “Castle of Montreal,” it is located on the side of a mountain and has a grand sweep of fruit orchards below.
Showbak castle’s exterior is impressive with a foreboding gate and an encircling triple wall. Despite the precautions of its builder, the fortress fell to Saladin only 75 years after its construction. Built during Crusader times, over 800 years ago, Showbak castle appears as a natural extension of a dramatic hill.