Saturday, July 20, 2013


How can it be so difficult for a married couple with no small children to get away for a couple of days together? Perhaps we make it difficult for ourselves. Better, perhaps I make it difficult for us. I am the one who finds it difficult to disengage for all the physical and emotional needs of our home and family, even when I am looking forward to spending time alone with Dear Husband, talking, reading, and relaxing. We had a small window of opportunity during the week after my return from the States and the arrival of houseguests, and later, more home-coming children. and wee took it.

The typical getaway for our area is a Dead Sea resort hotel, which has it charms: pool, sun, nice hotel rooms, wonderful breakfast buffet, but it is also expensive, crowded in the summer, and local color is limited to pool attire of Jordan's upper-crust. We did stay in such a Dead Sea hotel the second night of our getaway, but for the first night we chose Madaba, a small Jordanian city with a long history, dating from the Middle Bronze age and mentioned in the Old Testament as a Moabite border city. It was later ruled by the Roman, Byzantine, and Ummayad empires, and is now most famous for its mosaics dating back to those times. Ninety Arab Christian families from Kerak (south of Madaba) re-settled Madaba in 1880 under the leadership of two Italian priests, and it was at that point that archaeological endeavors commenced.

Though Dear Husband and I have visited Madaba before, this was our first time to sleep there and to visit sites other than the famous Church of Saint George. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Mosaic City. The most important ammenities of any Jordanian hotel in the summer-time are air conditioning and cleanliness, and I rate this hotel fives stars for both. It was tastefully decorated, offered a satisfying buffet breakfast, and was less than half the price of the Movenpick at the Dead Sea. I'd highly recommend this hotel, which is run by members of the Sawalha family.

After some rest and reading (Tim Keller's "The Meaning of Marriage"--excellent!) we walked through town to have dinner at our favorite Madaba restaurant, Haret Jdoudna.  On our way to dinner, we stopped in a local rug store and had a nice visit with the owner. He was sure that he knew Dear Husband; interestingly, this sort of  recognition happened at least three other times during the weekend. We are trying to figure out which foreigner who looks like Dear Husband has visited Madaba and the Dead Sea so many times! The shopkeeper was a member of the well-known Maiah family, and so, of course, knew our language teacher of many years ago, who is also a member of that clan.

This picture doesn't quite capture the charm of our courtyard surroundings, but if you can imagine fragrant jasmine winding its way around stair-rails and balconies, and a fig tree growing in the corner, you'll have a better idea of what we enjoyed.

On Friday morning, we did a walk-about of Madaba and all the sites that we wanted to see. This was easily done on foot and Friday morning is the perfect time for walking around: it is the day off, the day for sleeping in and staying home, and so the streets were mostly empty, except for other tourist-types. Though we avoided the regular hustle and bustle of a work-day, we enjoyed stopping by a few shops which were open along the way. Cooking-for-a-crowd is a major theme of my summer, so I thought it might be nice to have one of these beyond-large cooking pots. Dear Husband pointed out that they wouldn't fit on our standard size burners so I passed them by.

Fresh bread was being taken out of the oven on wooden paddles as we passed by this makhbaz (place of baking).

An interesting juxtaposition of signage and religious architecture:

This church was built on what looked to be the highest point of the city. Dear Husband  spotted this ancient ashlar stone next to the stairway leading to the church.

 Our first stop was the Church of the Apostles, 578 AD, to view some mosaics floors:.

This is a partial view of "Personification of the Sea". The church is open and so all the mosaics had a layer of Jordanian dust, i.e. fine dirt over them. The size of the mosaic floors in this church was impressive.

A few more walk-about views as we made our way to the other sites:

Sounds like a good idea to me

We stopped next at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, built over the Byzantine church and which houses the famous Madaba Map, a mosaic map of the Palestine, including the Holy Land and Jerusalem, dated 542 AD.

Saint George and the dragon

The remains of the Madaba Map

A pictorial key of the map

Modern mosaic of Elijah and the ravens

Walking a couple blocks to the Archeological Park, we were able to view more ancient mosaics, outside and inside the church of the Virgin Mary.

The church of the Virgin Mary was built over a Roman monument in the 6th or 7th century.

I've no pictures from our time at the Dead Sea--recall my previous comment about local color. 

No comments: