The Dead Sea

Desert Castles


Mt. Nebo








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Over a span of 3,500 years, Madaba has alternately been an important focal point of history and an abandoned pile of ruins.  The Israelites conquered it and King David's army defeated the Ammonites and Arameans here.  In the ninth century B.C., it was retaken by the King of Moab, Mesha.

But that was not the end of the battles over and in Madaba.  The Maccabbees were attacked and fought here; it was also ruled by Jews and others over the centuries until the Nabatean King Aretas III won it back in the first century B.C.

Christianity came to the area in the early centuries A.D., and most of what is known about Madaba from that period has been gleaned from the spectacular mosaics and fragments that have been excavated.

The Madaba Map

In 1898, while construction crews were building a Greek Orthodox Church on the site of an ancient Byzantine church, they stumbled upon the sixth century map of Palestine that has made Madaba famous.  It depicts the Holy Land, from Alexandria in the south to Sidon in the north, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the deserts east of Amman.  At the center of the map, which measured 25 meters by 5.6 meters (today only 15.7 meters survive) is a detailed map of Jerusalem, and at the heart of the map of Jerusalem lies the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Comprised of an estimated 2.3 million tiles, it must have taken some 11,500 hours to assemble.  Almost 150 sites are labeled in color-coded tile, and most of them have been identified.  Today, visitors can see the map in the yellow brick Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.

Accelerated excavation work has uncovered an impressive array of mosaics and fragments in the city, causing many to call it the City of Mosaics.  Other impressive mosaics can be seen in the Madaba Archeological Museum, the Church of the Apostles and other excavation sites.

The 747 earthquake leveled Madaba, and it lay abandoned for more than 1,000 years.  In 1880, 2,000 Christians from Kerak settled among the ruins.  Today, it is a large, modern, mainly Christian city.


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