Things to Do in Madaba
Standing at around 2,680 feet (817 meters) above sea level, Mt. Nebo is an important Judeo-Christian pilgrimage site. Moses first saw the Holy Land from the summit and may have later died here. While it's of particular interest to history buffs, it's also great for its views—on clear days it's possible to see the Dead Sea from here.
Located in Madaba, the 19th-century Greek Orthodox St. George's Church is home to the famous Mosaic Map (Madaba Map). This sixth-century Byzantine map is believed to have been created in 542 AD, making it one of the world’s oldest biblical maps. It features imagery of the Holy Land depicted in ornate tiles and was originally made to encompass about 51 feet by 19.5 feet.
The Mosaic Map features more than 150 Greek inscriptions and shows locations like Jericho, the Dead Sea, Palestine, the Nile Delta, Karak and the focus of the map, Jerusalem. Today it’s about one-third its original size, although it is still in excellent condition and worth a visit. It’s said that Muslims once damaged the maps in places where Islam was portrayed as an apostate religion due to offense taken by the fact that the map depicts Jesus as God’s son. The map was unearthed in 1894 AD, and St. George's Church was then built over it to act as its protector. Today visitors can see what remains of this beautiful piece of art and history up close. Since its rebirth, the map has not only enthralled church visitors, but has also helped scientists and researchers discover new landmarks and better understand historical topography.
La Storia Tourism Complex, located just over a mile (2 kilometers) from Mt. Nebo, offers visitors a quirky overview of the culture, religion, history and heritage of Jordan. The museum portion of the complex comprises a series of dioramas (some of them animatronic) depicting mostly Biblical scenes, starting with Noah’s Ark and continuing through the parting of the Red Sea, the birth of Jesus and the Last Supper. Other scenes show what life was like in a traditional Bedouin village, with animatronic villagers performing day-to-day tasks.
Also of interest is the onsite HandiCrafts Centre, where you can buy handmade mosaics, furniture, carpets, Dead Sea products, scarves, shawls and Bedouin jewelry, much of it made by local artists with special needs. Another section of the museum has been reserved to house what could turn out to be the largest mosaic mural in the world, set to measure 98 feet (30 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) tall.
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