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In central Jordan, a 40-minute drive from Jordan’s capital Amman, lies Madaba, one of Jordan’s most culturally interesting cities and home to a large portion of the country’s Christian minority. Whether you want to gaze at the world-famous Madaba mosaics, enjoy shopping in the old city center or dine in one of the city’s wonderful restaurants, Madaba won’t disappoint.
Madaba Mosaics and Churches
The main reason most people choose to visit Madaba is to see the mosaics constructed at the height of Byzantine rule. The most famous site is of course the Madaba Mosaic Map, located in St. George’s Church. It is the oldest known map of the Holy Land. The artwork was lost for centuries and rediscovered in the late 1800s, spurning many archaeologists to head to Madaba. Excavations are always ongoing.
However, the Madaba Mosaic Map is not the only mosaic relic worth visiting! The city is also home to mosaics in The Church of the Apostles (which contains scenes of mythology mixed with everyday life) and Madaba’s Archaeological Park. Further interesting sites that reflect the city’s Byzantine heritage include Tell Madaba and the Burnt Palace. Most sites are within walking distance of each other and the city center itself.
Madaba’s Old City Center
With its relaxed atmosphere and welcoming locals, it comes as no surprise that Madaba is a haven for all groups in Jordan. While the majority of the population is Muslim, there is also a large Christian minority, reflective of the town’s Byzantine heritage. You will see old churches and modern mosques alongside each other.
The city center of Madaba is a wonderful place to people-watch, shop and eat. There are numerous shops in town, selling everything from famous locally hand-made rugs, mosaic map replicas and clothing. Enjoy a relaxed shopping atmosphere in both souvenir shops and mosaic workshops, which you can enter for free.
Additionally, the city has a wonderful overall atmosphere, relaxed and not too crowded like Amman Downtown. You will truly be able to take a rest at one of the numerous coffee shops and high quality restaurants in town.
Best Time to Visit
Madaba can be visited any time of the year. Sites are open seven days a week all year round. If you enjoy peace and quiet, best avoid Fridays, when the Iman call to prayer will wake you before dawn and Orthodox church bells continue into the afternoon. If it is your first time in Jordan and you’re planning a round-trip through Jordan, we recommend reading my article Best Time to Visit Jordan.
How to get from Amman to Madaba?
If you have a rental car in Jordan, Madaba is only a 40-minute drive from Amman Downtown via Highway 35 (King’s Highway). If you don’t drive, Madaba can be easily reached by public transport. In Amman, a minibus leaves at the 7th circle and takes roughly one hour to Madaba city center (fare: JOD 1). A taxi from Amman to Madaba would cost around JOD 10 (one-way). If you drive, Madaba can perfectly be combined with a visit to Mount Nebo, the mountain where Moses saw the Promised Land before he died.
There are various hotels in the city. Accommodation ranges from bed & breakfast to large hotel chains. Check out hotels in Madaba for all budgets.