I am not sure that I want to share the secret of this little town called Madaba with the world. The very reason that makes it so attractive may be lost. Madaba is a quaint town, close to Amman. The town breathes history and has escaped hordes of tourists that rush to Petra and Wadi Rum; it continues to be a peaceful and quite little Jordanian town, in every sense.
Here is a list of reasons that made us visit Madaba:
Close to the Airport
Madaba is closer to the Queen Alia International Airport than main Amman city (distance of about 50km) Our flight landed in the afternoon and we wanted a quite place to rest during the evening, enjoy some authentic Jordanian food, talk to the locals and sleep comfortably at night – Madaba was perfect!
Accommodation in Madaba is much cheaper than Amman or Petra. There are variety of hotels and guest houses to choose from, but no luxury options.
We chose to stay in the guest house run by the St George church. While a lot of people staying here are on pilgrimage, that is not a pre requisite to book a room. Basic, clean room at the heart of the tourist area, with ample parking – we were delighted with our choice!
The world’s oldest and biggest mosaic map detailing the Holy Land was unearthed in Madaba. The map is now housed in St George’s Orthodox Church.
The finesse of the map is exemplary – palm trees, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the Jordanian river – we bow to the cartographic talent. Don’t miss the depiction of the fish swimming away from the Dead Sea as the as the Jordan river empties its water into the water body that does not support any life. Besides the map, there are plenty of other mosaics – Jesus, mother Mary and other sciences from the bible. From a distance of a few meters, the mosaics looked like paintings!
Shopping for mosaics
When we retire, I want to have a house full of curios from all our travels. The list includes Turkish lamps, Moroccan carpets, British tea sets… I can go on and on. One item on the list is a mosaic table top – I want one from the Middle East and Madaba seemed like the best place to pick one up. We sauntered through the lanes of the little town, chatted up with artists at the mosaic workshops and felt a little more knowledgeable about mosiacs. Sadly, we couldn’t buy any. The ‘inexpensive’ ones that cost USD 100 or so had an amateur feel to them. The ones that were a display of talent cost over USD 500 – too much money to spend considering that we were trying to control the budget; well, the item stays on the list!
Madaba serves as the perfect base for a budget traveller to make day trips to Mt Nebo, Bethany beyond the Jordan and Amman city. Rent a car, plan your day trips and come back to to Madaba to spend a warm and comfortable night. There is limited public transport from Madaba – renting a car is the best option.
Two cents from end… some tips
- If you are planning to visit Madaba during tourist season, book accommodation in advance.
- Spend a while in a few mosaic work shops to understand how mosaics are made and what to look for when buying a piece of art – it is easy to get cheated!
- Do not go shopping with a guide – the shop owners need to give the guide a 20-30% commission. You will be able to strike a better deal if you shop independently. As I have said in my previous post, Jordanians enjoy the sport of bargaining!
- The mosaics are heavy – it’s stone. Remember the baggage allowance on your flight.
- We had a great meal at Haret Jdoudana – limited options for vegetarians, but fresh, tasty food, a bit on the expensive side though.
- There are a few currency exchanges and we got good rates here
- The locals are warm and friendly. Not many people understand English. We used the Google translate tool quite a bit. Bargaining when language is a barrier is interesting – I have enjoyed that in Hong Kong and Egypt ; the Jordanian experience lived upto the expectation!
- Unless you are planning a few day trips, one day is just enough in Madaba to help you recharge your tired wanderlust!
As always…send us an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!
Let the travellers’ tribe grow!